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Lithuania’s Debate on Free Expression, LGBTIQ Rights, and the Constitution

Lithuania finds itself at a legal crossroads as the Ministry of Justice contemplates seeking recourse from the Constitutional Court regarding a law prohibiting minors from disseminating information that “disparages family values” and promotes the concept of LGBTIQ families.

This move is a response to the European Court of Human Rights’ ruling in January, stating that Lithuania violated the rights of writer Neringa Macaitė by enforcing this provision.

Despite the government’s proposal to remove this provision from the Law on the Protection of Minors against the Detrimental Effect of Public Information, the parliament rejected the initiative last November.

“Currently, legal experts at the Ministry of Justice are analyzing the possibility (of turning to the Constitutional Court – BNS) and the content of such an appeal, including how it might challenge compliance with the Constitution,” said Minister of Justice Ewelina Dobrowolska to BNS this week.

She mentioned that legal experts are expected to present their findings by the end of the year, following which a political decision will be made.

“I am confident that in the coming weeks, we will have a response,” the minister remarked.

The European Court of Human Rights concluded that Lithuania infringed upon the European Convention on Human Rights by restricting the publication of N. Macaitė’s book “Gintarė širdis” (“Amber Heart”).

Some legal experts suggest that due to the existing legal framework, it’s possible to approach the Constitutional Court to ascertain whether the mentioned provision discriminates against a part of society.

Meanwhile, opponents to the law’s amendment argue that the current provision prohibits disparaging family values and promoting the concept of LGBTIQ families without banning the dissemination of information about them, hence negating the need for changes.

In the case of the late writer N. Macaitė, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Lithuania breached the provisions of the Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms related to freedom of expression by restricting the publication of her book.

Published in 2013 by the Lithuanian University of Educational Sciences, the book’s distribution was halted after a few months. The university justified its decision citing a letter from the Journalist Ethics Inspectorate, which categorized N. Macaitė’s book as harmful to children under 14 years old. At the time, the Inspectorate justified its stance based on prevailing legal regulations.