The Lithuanian justice minister’s blanket rejection of a gender neutral bill to allow civil partnerships contravenes European standards, Human Rights Watch said in a letter to Justice Minister Juozas Bernatonis released on Thursday.
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The Lithuanian Justice Ministry, headed by Bernatonis, recently drafted a partnership bill that states civil unions would only be available to opposite-sex couples.

“It is extremely disappointing that Justice Minister Bernatonis opposed including same-sex couples in the registered partnership legislation,” Boris Dittrich, LGBT rights advocacy director at Human Rights Watch, is quoted as saying in the organisation's press release. “Justice Minister Bernatonis should understand from the ruling on Greece that his position is discriminatory and violates Lithuania’s international human rights obligations.”

The Greek government announced on June 10, 2015, that it will introduce a new law giving civil union rights to same-sex couples following a ruling by the European Court on Human Rights that civil partnership legislation that excluded same-sex couples was discriminatory.

Bernatonis commented during a live TV debate on June 3 that he would allow registered partnership only for opposite-sex couples. He contended that the there were simply too few same-sex couples living together in Lithuania to include them in partnership legislation.

As a party to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and as a member of the Council of Europe, Lithuania is bound by the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights and Council of Europe positions, Human Rights Watch said.

In 2013, the Court found that proposed registered partnership legislation in Greece that did not include same-sex couples was discriminatory. The Court ruled that the Greek legislation violated article 8 of the convention, on family life, taken together with article 14, which prohibits discrimination.

“The Lithuanian government needs to understand that it has firm obligations to protect LGBT people and their children,” Dittrich said.

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