2023 Liepos 28d.

he Lithuanian Parliament, or Seimas, has extended its current session in order to debate a number of sensitive and potentially dangerous issues. One such issue not yet on the agenda is the legalisation of same-sex partnerships or civil unions in Lithuania. It could be put to vote at any moment, as Freedom Party leader Aušrinė Armonaitė promised in May of last year, after calculating that the ratio of votes on the floor of the Seimas are in favour of legalisation. 

The Seimas opposition, and the few representatives of the ruling party who are not in favour of same-sex unions, cannot stop the adoption of the bill without taking part in a vote. But organised action is unlikely. Nor does the Seimas have the votes to override the president’s veto of the law. But if it is enacted, it will be on the heels of the NATO summit in Vilnius, which was attended by one of the most aggressive supporters of the global LGBT movement, President Biden. President Nausėda has promised to veto same-sex partnership both during the elections and while in office. But which would put more pressure on him: the promises he has made and the public opinion of the Lithuanian people, or the pressure that will inevitably be exerted by the great world powers? 

The Kremlin or Kyiv

Proponents of legislation have put forward the bizarre argument that refusal to legalise same-sex unions amounts to taking sides with Russia and the Kremlin in the war against Ukraine, while to accept its legalisation would signal support for Ukraine and the West. This message has even been placed front and center in the propaganda favouring the legalisation. It is repeated by libertarians such as previous Chairman of Constitutional Court Žalimas, previous mayor of Vilnius Remigijus Šimašius, and others, along with various minority rights organisations. 

This message is a blatant lie. Ukraine itself does not recognise any legal status for homosexual relationships, and marriage is defined as a union between a man and a woman in the Ukrainian Constitution. Moreover, according to polls conducted in 2020, the Ukrainian public is very strongly opposed to LGBT talking points. Only 14% of Ukrainians agree that homosexuality should be socially acceptable. Strikingly, this figure is even lower than it was in 2007, when, according to the same Pew Research Center polls, 19% of the population in Ukraine took a positive view of same-sex relationships. Indeed, Ukraine is as much opposed to LGBT ideology as Russia; however, it does not use this opposition as a tool of imperialism and demagoguery. These polls merely reflect that Ukrainians are a free and self-determining people with the ability to choose laws that reflect their own values. 

At the beginning of the war, Ukrainians responded in a public poll that they regarded Poland and Lithuania as friendly countries. It is no coincidence that these are some of the most conservative countries in the EU with respect to family issues, including homosexual partnerships. Slovakia, the first country to supply fighter jets to Ukraine, has also decided not to formalise same-sex partnerships. These countries, among the most conservative nations with NATO, are exerting a great deal of effort to help Ukraine in its resistance to Russian invasion and demanding further Western action. They have also been warning the progressive West for decades that Russia is a threat and not a partner.

It is true that in the minds of some citizens in our region, in Central and Eastern Europe, there is a struggle between ‘tradition’ and ‘progress,’ between ‘conservatism’ and ‘modernity.’ This struggle also exists in Western Europe and in the U.S. Kremlin propaganda presents Russia as a bastion of ‘traditional values.’ According to this narrative, Ukraine bowed to Western pressure and now adheres to LGBT values. Some conservative segments of society, especially in the West, refuse to support Ukraine precisely because this is how they perceive the phenomenon: Ukraine as a champion of societal changes that undermine human nature, Russia as a defender of tradition. 

This phenomenon has been analysed with great insight by the Belgian professor David Engels. It is a misunderstanding of the conflict by conservatives throughout American and Europe. However, every time Western leaders openly push progressive values that are alien to Central and Eastern European societies, the Kremlin’s narrative becomes more believable. It is hard to think of anything better for Russian propaganda about the ‘rotten West’ than an adoption of same-sex family status in a NATO country whose society is strongly against it.

The convening of the NATO summit under the banner of progressive ideology only confirms the Kremlin’s narrative that the West is pressuring countries to legalise homosexual unions and sex change. Forcing Lithuania to adopt values that are alien to the majority of its citizens could prove fatal in the information war being waged against the backdrop of the Ukraine war. Lithuanians are fully in solidarity with the Ukrainians, even in the absence of personal friendships or other ties. It would be difficult to break this bond, but turning Lithuania into yet another progressive country will certainly not strengthen it. 

Ukraine has already been abused by the West during this war, when the leaders of the EU countries demanded that Ukraine ratify the Istanbul Convention (which protects from discrimination based on gender identity and gender roles). In Lithuania, this was followed by a long propaganda campaign arguing that this showed how progressive Ukrainian society really is. The Istanbul Convention stands alongside another issue exploited by propaganda.

Last year, President Zelensky expressed support for legalising same-sex partnerships. In Lithuania, the chairmen of the parliamentary committee for human rights, Tomas Vytautas Raskevičius, and many others trumpeted that this was further proof of Ukraine’s commitment to progressive values. Everyone was silent on the fact that the president only registered it because he was obliged to do so by Ukraine’s extensive use of direct democracy: only 30,000 signatures were needed for it to be registered as a citizens’ initiative. However, a year has passed and the issue has not been put to a vote, just like the ratification of the Istanbul Convention—both documents that are alien to Ukrainian society and can only be imposed by force.

A dangerous game

The legalisation of same-sex partnership is, after all, not just a question of solidarity with Ukraine or of depriving Russia of fuel for its propaganda. It is also important for Lithuania’s social harmony. Sexual partnership is not a trifle. It is a matter of one of the fundamental norms of human life: family. The majority of Lithuanians understand this. It is obvious that when a government makes decisions that are opposed by a significant majority of the population, it only increases, rather than reduces, existing tensions in society. So why seek to increase these tensions under the pretext of taking sides in the war? Why is this being done by a government that demands unity, solidarity, and mobilisation for Ukraine? The public is also contributing to the cause by taking in refugees, sending aid, going to war, and protesting against Russia’s actions. What are the leftists doing in the meantime? They are telling Lithuanian society that if it does not support same-sex unions, it is pro-Russian.

This is a dangerous game. Around 70-80% of Lithuanian society do not support civil partnerships. It is also clear that around 90% of the population supports Ukraine. No other scenario is statistically possible: the absolute majority of Lithuanian citizens support Ukraine and traditional marriage. To say anything to the contrary is an insult, a humiliation, and a deliberate attempt to set the government at odds with at least 60% of its citizens.

For many years now, voices protesting against the legalisation of same-sex partnerships, ‘marriage,’ and adoptions have been systematically silenced everywhere in the West. The media has created the image that there is only one legitimate opinion in the West, the progressive one, when at least a decade ago many major Western societies were split down the middle on family or life issues. 

Members of the Lithuanian Parliament have a lot to think about before casting their votes. The choice is indeed geopolitical as well as cultural in nature, but not as banal and superficial as politicians like Šimašius and Žalimas portray it. By legalising same-sex partnerships, Lithuania would be moving away from Ukraine and helping Russia in its propaganda war against the West. It is time to put an end to the lies and deceit that have been disseminated for too long in these critical battles.

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