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Lithuania could follow in Latvia’s footsteps on banning gay marriage
By The Baltic Times staff
VILNIUS - Irena Degutiene, a member of the Homeland Union (Conservatives) will reportedly begin collecting signatures in January as part of a drive to amend the constitution so that same-sax marriages will be banned.
The news caused consternation among some MPs, who said the Lithuanian constitution already bans gay and lesbian marriages. Julius Sabatauskas, a Social Democrat and chairman of Parliament’s legal committee, said such marriages were already unconstitutional in Lithuania.
“The Civil Code also gives a comprehensible definition of marriage with a person of the opposite sex. The Civil Code defines marriage as a voluntary agreement between a man and a woman to crease legal family relations between a woman and a man, as stipulated by law,” he told the Baltic News Service in Thursday.
Latvia’s Parliament passed a similar amendment to that nation’s constitution in December.
Latvia alters constitution, blocking gay marriage
Thu Dec 15, 2005 1:11 PM ET
By Jorgen Johansson
RIGA (Reuters) - Latvian lawmakers blocked same-sex marriages by changing the Baltic state's constitution on Thursday, infuriating gay rights activists who said they may take their case to the European Court of Human Rights.
Ex-Soviet Latvia, which joined the European Union last year, sees itself as a progressive democracy enjoying one of Europe's fastest growing economies. But many people retain conservative views about the family and gay rights.
"It is ridiculous that Latvia is sinking into a homophobic society when the rest of Europe is going the other way," said political analyst Karlis Streips, who is openly gay.
Spain, Belgium and the Netherlands have all allowed gay marriages in the last five years, while a British law permitting same-sex civil partnerships came into effect earlier this month.
Analysts said Thursday's amendment defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman had effectively blocked the legal recognition of same-sex marriages in Latvia.
"Of course we will be called homophobes and worse," said Minister for Children and Family Affairs Ainars Bastiks. "But we are a democracy and we have a right to make our own decisions after discussions."
He added: "For conservative societies it shows that we can protect our values."
Latvia's parliament passed the amendment easily, with 65 votes for, six against and nine abstentions, a result that drew applause from some lawmakers.
"This is not against gays. It is supporting traditional families," said lawmaker Oskars Kastens of the First Party, a ruling-coalition party that proposed the amendment.
"Looking at trends in Europe we are against liberalization of the idea of family. It is the same in both Lithuania and Poland."
Latvian gay rights activists immediately denounced the decision, saying it was discriminatory and ran counter to a European trend toward recognizing same sex marriages.
"I think the decision in parliament today ... will add to the growing homophobia in today's society," said Maris Sants, a spokesman for gay rights group ILGA Latvia.
"Our next step could be to go to the human rights court in Europe," he said.
In July Latvia's first gay pride march, promoted as a turning point in its tolerance of sexual minorities, was suddenly canceled after complaints from the prime minister.
"We are a state based on Christian values and we cannot promote things that are unacceptable for a large part of society," said Prime Minister Minister Aigars Kalvitis.
The ban was later lifted, but the thin straggle of marchers were menaced by thousands of angry anti-gay protestors.