Thousands protest same-sex civil unions in Lithuania

Thousands rallied in Lithuanian capital Vilnius on Saturday against draft legislation allowing civil unions for same-sex couples, a controversial move in the predominantly Catholic country.

Thousands protest same-sex civil unions in Lithuania
People take part in the protest campaign "The Great Family Defence March" protesting against laws that threaten the institution of a traditional family at Vingis Park in Vilnius, on May 15, 2021. Thousands rallied in Vilnius on May 15, 2021 against draft legislation allowing civil unions for same-sex couples, a controversial move in predominantly Catholic Lithuania. AFP
Openly gay MP Tomas Vytautas Raskevicius is behind the drive for legal recognition for same-sex partners, which parliament is expected to consider next month.

Police said ten thousand people attended the event, dubbed the "family defence march", which took place despite a ban on public gatherings under anti-Covid rules and a surge in infections.

Centrist President Gitanas Nauseda issued a statement in connection with the protest, insisting that any legal recognition of same-sex couples must be in line with the constitution which defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman.

Protesters see same-sex unions as a threat to traditional family values. 

A 2019 Eurobarometer survey found that 70 percent of Lithuanians opposed legal recognition of same-sex unions, signalling some of the strongest opposition to gay rights in the EU.

The new legislation aims to grant LGBT couples inheritance rights, joint ownership of property, procedural guarantees and the option to change their surnames but does not include the right to adopt children, according to local media.

"This isn't acceptable for me, for my children and my grandchildren," protester Alfredas, 55, who declined to provide his surname, told AFP.

The measure has split the conservative-led coalition government, but could still muster enough support among governing liberals and opposition social democrats to pass.

Liberals in the governing coalition also want to ratify the Istanbul Convention, an international accord designed to protect women from violence.

Topics: Lithuanian , Vilnius , protest , Tomas Vytautas Raskevicius , same-sex civil union
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