On July 14, 2023, The Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Lithuania initiated an amendment to a provision in the Law on the Protection of Minors from the Negative Effects of Public Information, which was found to be discriminatory against people of the LGBTQI+ community. The Human Rights Monitoring Institute supports this proposal and hopes that, when the time comes to vote, this amendment will be supported by members of the Lithuanian Parliament. The amendment was initiated after the decision of the European Court of Human Rights in the case Macatė v. Lithuania, where the Court recognised that the distribution of the author’s book of fairy tales, which also contained stories about same-sex couples, was unreasonably restricted and violated the author’s right to freedom of speech.
The draft law amendment stipulates that Article 4, Part 2, Clause 16 of the Law on the Protection of Minors from the Negative Effects of Public Information of the Republic of Lithuania, which regulates public information that has a negative impact on the development of minors, including information that disparages family values and promotes a different concept of marriage and family formation than that enshrined in the Constitution and the Civil Code of the Republic of Lithuania, shall be repealed.
ECtHR decision in case Macate v Lithuania
On January 23, 2023, The European Court of Human Rights issued a decision in the case Macatė v. Lithuania, in which it was explained that restricting children’s access to information about same-sex relationships, when such information cannot be considered inappropriate or harmful to them on grounds other than sexual orientation, shows that the authorities give preference to certain types of relationships and families and that they consider opposite-sex relationships more socially acceptable and valuable than same-sex relationships, thus contributing to ongoing stigmatisation. Therefore, such restrictions are incompatible with the concepts of equality, pluralism and tolerance that are characteristic of a democratic society. Taking into account the interpretation of the ECtHR, it can be said that the provisions of the aforementioned law are incompatible with the values of the Republic of Lithuania and are more harmful than useful.
Interpretations by the Constitutional Court of Lithuania
This decision of the ECtHR complements the previous rulings of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Lithuania: On September 28, 2011, The Constitutional Court adopted a resolution in which it was clarified that the constitutional concept of family is based on mutual responsibility, understanding, emotional attachment, help and similar relationships of family members and the voluntary decision to assume certain rights and responsibilities, i.e. the content of relationships and the form of expression of these relationships has no fundamental significance for the constitutional concept of family, therefore, not only families created by marriage correspond to the concept of family. Moreover, on January 11, 2019, The Constitutional Court adopted a resolution in which it emphasised that, unlike the constitutional concept of marriage, the constitutional concept of family is gender neutral.
Information must promote tolerant attitudes
Taking into account the presented case law, it can be said that the current legal regulation prevents talking about respect and acceptance of all members of society. It is important to ensure an opportunity for minors to receive objective information about sexual orientation and to develop a tolerant attitude. Dissemination of information about families or relationships of persons of the same sex cannot be considered as disparaging the family values enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania, therefore, such regulation is discriminatory and does not reflect the need to develop a tolerant and human rights-respecting approach to various family forms.