Annual Review 2013
Homophobic statements by Lithuanian politicians continued to contribute to a climate of intolerance towards LGBTI people which included the comparison of homosexuality to necrophilia and paedophilia. Some of these homophobic positions were translated into two proposed amendments to the Constitution, one to ban ’propagation of homosexual relations’, and another one to equate family with marriage and parenthood. Both proposals were rejected by the Parliament. Lithuania also continues to fail to implement the decision of the European Court of Human Rights to provide legal framework for legal recognition of trans people. On a positive note, a Lithuanian court fined a man for publishing hateful comments on Facebook. For the first time, a political party expressed its support towards recognition of legalisation of civil partnerships for same-sex partners.
Access to goods and services
- In July, the Equal Opportunities Ombudsperson issued a warning to a transport company operating in Vilnius over discrimination based on sexual orientation. The warning followed a complaint made by the Lithuanian Gay League (LGL). The company in question had originally responded positively to LGL’s request to rent a bus on 17 May 2012 and confirmed the booking, only to cancel the reservation after learning that the bus would be used by an LGBTI organisation. The Equal Opportunities Ombudsman found that the transport company had refused to rent a bus to the client on the grounds of sexual orientation, and had thus violated the Lithuanian Equal Opportunities Act.
Bias motivated speech
- In January, a court ordered a man from Vilnius to pay a fine of 1560 LTL (circa €450) for a comment posted on Facebook. The comment said: “What we need is another Hitler to exterminate those fags because there’s just too many of them multiplying.” The First District Court of Vilnius City ruled that the man had used inflammatory rhetoric and encouraged mockery, defiance, discrimination and physical violence against a group of people on the grounds of sexual orientation.
- In May, Petras Gražulis, a Member of Parliament (MP) from the Order and Justice Party, interrupted a press conference held on the eve of the International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO). Mr. Gražulis shouted comments such as: “How are homosexuals better than necrophiliacs or paedophiles?” and expressed his wish to chase LGBs and ‘gay-friendly’ ambassadors out of the country. Security intervened and Mr. Gražulis left the venue.
- In July, the then Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Health Affairs, Antanas Matulas MP, stated that regulations on the issue of gender reassignment surgery would legitimise “unnatural” and “immoral” surgeries in Lithuania. Commenting on a legislative proposal about gender reassignment, Mr Matulas advised trans persons to “find another treatment and if nothing else helps and you really believe that nature and God have made a mistake, save some cash, go somewhere else and let someone cut off or attach whatever you might wish. But I will never agree to such surgeries being financed at the expense of actually ill persons – those with cancer, diabetes or heart disease.”
- In November, Antanas Matulas submitted a legislative proposal in order to explicitly prohibit gender reassignment surgeries in Lithuania. The explanatory memorandum of the proposal identified gender reassignment surgeries as “castration of healthy individuals, who could otherwise bear children.”
- In June, Petras Gražulis MP proposed a public referendum in order to adopt an amendment to the Constitution banning ‘propagation of homosexual relations’ and ‘homosexual adoption’. He registered the proposal after the European Parliament passed a resolution condemning homophobic laws and discrimination in Europe. The Lithuanian Parliament rejected the proposed amendment.
- In November, the Ministry of Education and Science decided that two children’s books published in Latvia would not be distributed in Lithuania. The two booklets entitled The Day when Ruth was Richard and The Day when Karlis was Karlina, which are written for kindergarten-age children, tell the stories of a girl who woke up one day as a boy and a boy who woke up as a girl. The decision of the Ministry followed protests by the National Parents and Family Association, as well as several members of Parliament, who opposed the introduction of this teaching methodology aimed at combating gender stereotyping.
Equality and non-discrimination
- In May, Rainbow Days were organised to mark IDAHO. Events organised during the Rainbow Days received the support of several embassies, Members of Parliament and various human rights NGOs. On 16 May, the LGL’s new publication Changing Faces – First March for LGBT Equality in Lithuania was launched at a press conference in the presence of Members of Parliament, high-level representatives from the embassies of the Netherlands and the United States, and from Amnesty International. Another event was a joint reception hosted by six ambassadors (France, Germany, Sweden, Finland, Spain and the Czech Republic) for the LGBT-friendly civil society of Lithuania, gathering representatives of various human rights organisations, ministries, public authorities and other institutions at the French Ambassador’s residence to celebrate achievements in human rights for LGBT people in Lithuania.
- In July, the UN Human Rights Committee expressed concern over discrimination against LGBT people in its concluding observations on Lithuania. The Committee notably expressed concerns over the increasing negative attitudes towards and stigmatisation of LGBT persons in Lithuanian society. Moreover, the Committee expressed concerns that certain legal instruments such as the Law on the Protection of Minors against the Detrimental Effect of Public Information may be applied in a manner unduly restrictive of the freedom of expression and may contribute to justifying discrimination against LGBT people. The Committee also raised concerns about various legislative proposals, including amendments to the Code of Administrative Offences, the Constitution, and the Civil Code, explaining that if adopted, such laws would impact negatively on the enjoyment of fundamental rights by LGBT individuals.
- In December, an awareness-raising initiative led by LGL was obstructed by administrative services of the Seimas (the Lithuanian Parliament). LGL distributed copies of a publication on the first equality march in Lithuania, Changing Faces, along with a letter calling for constructive dialogue with the newly elected MPs to mark International Human Rights Day. However, the book and letter were confiscated from the MPs’ mail boxes by the Communication Department of the Seimas on the grounds that the procedures for distribution of material in the Parliament had not been respected. It was explained that the rules of incoming correspondence require that all promotional materials distributed in the Parliament should be officially registered in the Unit and directly addressed to individual MPs. Dalia Kuodytė MP, a member of the Liberal Movement, who assisted LGL in distributing the packages expressed her surprise at the decision, saying that MPs often receive promotional materials, which are not officially registered, and that it is the first time during her two tenures in the Parliament that such problems arise. The situation was resolved following discussions between LGL, Ms Kuodytė and the Communication Department, and the majority of MPs received the book and the letter.
- In June, the Parliament came close to amending the Constitution with a statement that family means marriage and parenthood. The amendment was proposed by Stasys Šedbaras MP, from Homeland Union, a conservative party. As a constitutional amendment, the proposal would have needed to pass two rounds of voting and to gain at least 94 votes in favour. In the first vote the bill was supported only by 91 MPs. Following allegations of procedural shortcomings, the vote was taken again and in the second vote, 93 MPs voted for the bill. Currently, the Constitution states that only different-sex couples can be married, yet it does not rule out the possibility of same-sex couples forming families on a basis other than marriage.
- A number of leading Lithuanian political parties made their position on the legal recognition of same-sex relationships publicly known during the year. In a press release, Mr. Algis Čaplikas, the Chairman of the Liberal and Centre Union stated that the party was against the legalisation of same-sex partnerships. Similarly, Irena Degutiene, the Chairperson of the Parliamentary Group of the Homeland Union and the former Speaker of the Parliament, claimed that she will actively oppose the legalisation of same-sex partnerships. The only party to publicly express support for legalising same-sex partnerships was the Liberal Movement. In a television debate, Eligijus Masiulis, the Chairman of the Liberal Movement – then part of the ruling coalition – said that his party was “in favour of the legalisation on civil partnership, regardless of the sex of the partners”.
- In November, the Ministry of Justice announced that Lithuania would join the EU Regulation on jurisdiction, applicable law and the recognition and enforcement of decisions in matters of matrimonial property regimes which allows couples to choose a country for divorce or separation. According to the Ministry, this step was only taken by the Lithuanian authorities after the introduction of a public policy exception on marriages of same-sex partners, which foresees that the procedure will not be applicable in situations contravening the national constitutional order or main principles of domestic law.
Freedom of assembly
- In April, two MPs, Petras Gražulis and Kazimieras Uoka, were ordered by a Vilnius court to pay fines for crossing police barriers, refusing to obey police orders and disturbing public order during the Vilnius Baltic Pride Parade in 2010. The court found the two parliamentarians in question guilty of administrative violations. A fine of 200 LTL (circa €60), the maximum penalty for this violation, was imposed on each MP. Mr Gražulis refused to pay the fine.
Legal gender recognition
- In July, the Ministry of Justice proposed new draft legislation to enable people who have undergone gender reassignment surgery to be issued new identity cards without a lengthy court procedure. However, the proposed draft law also provides for the removal of existing state provisions for gender reassignment. Following a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in 2007, Lithuania is obliged to enact a law regulating the procedure and conditions of gender reassignment. Currently the Civil Code states that any unmarried, adult person is entitled to medical gender reassignment, but a law enforcing this, as suggested by the ECtHR, is missing. It is to be noted that this draft law was proposed 4 days prior to the review procedure under the UN Human Rights Committee, but was never placed on the Parliamentary agenda.
- In November, Antanas Matulas, a member of the Parliamentary Committee on Health Affairs, submitted an amendment to the draft law to introduce a clause to prohibit any medical gender reassignment in Lithuania. An identical draft amendment was submitted in 2011, but was not adopted. This amendment seeks to prohibit gender reassignment surgeries in Lithuania through a change in the generic article in the Civil Code. The Department of Law and the Department of European Law within the Parliament have criticised the proposal by indicating that it is based on transphobic prejudices and that it would breach the principle of legitimate expectation.
- In January, a survey by research company RAIT found that only 4% of Lithuanians support same-sex civil partnerships.
- A public opinion survey, commissioned by the Human Rights Monitoring Institute (HRMI), indicated that perception levels on discrimination against LGBT individuals have increased slightly (4.77 points on a 10-point-scale this year in comparison to 4.58 in 2010). It should be noted that respondents in the survey were also asked whether a public announcement of their child’s sexual orientation on the radio would constitute a violation of the parent’s right to privacy, the answers reached 8.38 points on the 10-point-scale.
- According to a survey by Spinter Tyrimai (Public Opinion Research) 36.6% of the population would ask to replace a teacher in their child’s school if s/he was gay or lesbian. Meanwhile 37.2% of the respondents said a teacher’s sexual orientation has nothing to do with the teaching.
- According to Eurobarometer 2012, 42% of Lithuanians believe sexual orientation discrimination is widespread. This is slightly below the EU27 average (46%). 30% believe gender identity discrimination is widespread. This is slightly below the EU27 average (45%). Lithuanians scored 4.1 on a scale from 1 (‘totally uncomfortable’) to 10 (‘totally comfortable’) when asked how comfortable they would feel with an LGB individual in the highest elected political position in their country. This is significantly below the EU27 average (6.6). Lithuanians scored 3.7 on a similar scale when asked about a transgender/transsexual person in the highest elected political position in their country. This is significantly below the EU27 average (5.7).