To contribute to solving the problem of recognition of same-sex couples in Lithuania, three such couples have applied to the courts for the right to legalise their families. These strategic cases were initiated and financially supported by the Tolerant Youth Association. This is the first case so far in Lithuania where same-sex couples have been trying to register their marriages in court.
Lithuania trampling on constitutional equality
Given that more than half of the EU Member States have already legalised same-sex marriage, while others have legalised civil partnerships or other forms of legal cohabitation, such changes should also be made in Lithuania. According to the applicants’ lawyer, Aivaras Žilvinskis, by refusing to recognise and register same-sex families, Lithuania is violating its international obligations and trampling on the constitutional equality of all persons before the law and the right of all persons to create a family. Currently, Lithuania is among the four EU countries where same-sex couples do not have any form of legal recognition.
In 2019, the Constitutional Court ruled that Lithuania must grant a residence permit to a foreign man who married a Lithuanian man of the same sex in another country, even though Lithuania itself did not allow such marriages. Politicians who promised to address the problems of legalising same-sex relationships have so far failed to deliver on their promises, so same-sex couples themselves have taken the initiative. They are asking the court to order the civil registry office to register a civil partnership in one case, a marriage and recognision of the relationship legalised abroad in another case, and to allow the couple to register the marriage in Lithuania through the courts in a third case.
'We have waited for too long'
One of the petitioners, Martynas Norbutas, says that a victory in court would allow same-sex families to have equal legal protection, show commitment to their partners and feel more at ease in times of adversity. According to Norbutas, the court case is about equality and change, “so that all people can choose what step they want to take.”
Lithuania has a draft Law on Civil Union on Same-Sex Partnerships, which has been discussed in the Seimas Committee on Law and Order, but has not yet been submitted to Parliament for consideration. Currently, Lithuania does not legalise civil partnerships for male-female or same-sex couples, and previous attempts to do so have been unsuccessful. "We are going to court as well, because we have waited for too long and it is obvious that without lawsuits, without a push, these changes will not come by themselves. That is why it is very important to give that push to the decision-makers so they would think about what is at stake," said Norbutas.
On 21 April 2023, the court rejected the first application by a same-sex couple to register a civil partnership, on the grounds that there is no law on civil partnerships in Lithuania, and therefore no legal act that could be used to grant the applicants’ application.