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Lithuanian Parliament one vote short from approving constitutional amendment on family definition

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Juliaus Kalinsko / 15min nuotr. / On the eve of the vote, activists staged a protest outside the Parliament.
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The Lithuanian Parliament came very close to passing a constitutional amendment equating family with marriage and parenthood, an initiative seen by many as discriminatory against unwed partners and same-sex couples. After Tuesday's ballot, Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius joked that voting should have been postponed, since Petras Gražulis, MP notorious for his anti-gay rhetoric, was absent from the sitting.

“I think it was a very serious and needed vote, but there's one essential question – where is Mr Gražulis? In the name of the parliamentary group, I propose the motion to have a 30-minute break and then vote again, since this issue cannot be settled without the participation of Mr Gražulis,” the Prime Minister joked after the failed vote.

As it happened, the Parliament did have to vote on the proposed bill twice. After the first ballot – which returned 91 votes in favour of the amendment – Vidmantas Žiemelis, member of the Christian Party group, demanded a second vote.

In the second ballot, only one more vote in favour would have approved the bill for further hearing. 93 MPs voted in favour, 16 voted against, 13 abstained.

In order for a constitutional amendment bill to be adopted, it must go through two votes in the Parliament and be endorsed by at least 94 MPs.

The ruling Conservatives are the most ardent supporters of the bill. According to them, a more precise constitutional definition of marriage “would create more love”, and “would reject ideological fashions”.

“The amendment unambiguously prevents legalization of same-sex marriage. That is our major decision,” Rimantas Jonas Dagys, Conservative, sums up the main idea behind the bill.

Meanwhile social democratic MPs, many of whom oppose the amendment, suggest that their conservative colleagues show support for families in tangible assistance and not declarative constitutional amendments: mortgage subsidies, employment, kindergartens, schools, free food for kids.

“This amendment would have established a Taliban-like law,” social democrat Birutė Vėsaitė says.

The Lithuanian Constitution stipulates that marriage can be entered only by opposite-sex couples, yet it does not rule out the possibility of same-sex couples forming families on other bases than marriage. The amendment is also criticized for being potentially discriminatory against unwed partners and children born out of wedlock.

The constitutional amendment linking family to marriage was drafted by 98 MPs after the Constitutional Court ruled last September that the State Family Policy Concept, adopted in 2008, went against the Constitution in suggesting that only married couples could be defined as family.

According to the ruling of the Constitutional Court, family can be formed by other means than marriage, while the form of a relationship has no essential bearing on the constitutional notion of the family.

The current Article 38 of the Lithuanian Constitution stipulates that family is the basis of the society and the state, that the state protects and supports family, motherhood, fatherhood, and childhood, while marriage is entered into by free consent of a man and a woman.

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