Marriage or savagery: Lithuania debates the family
Some of the most interesting debates on family policies are taking place in the European countries of the former Soviet bloc. In 2008, Lithuania passed legislation to define “family” as the married union of a man and a woman together with their children, adopted or biological. The point was key in terms of who gets the money the state earmarks to support families.
In 2009 the Baltic nation passed a law banning public information “that encourages [any type of] sexual relations among minors that denigrates family values or that promotes any concept of marriage and the family other than that defined in the Lithuanian Constitution and Code of Civil Law” (which states that marriage is between a man and a woman).
Now Lithuanian MPs are due to vote on an amendment to the Constitution that would define the institution of the family as based only on marriage, and marriage itself as something entered into by free consent between a man and a woman. There has been a proposal to supplement the amendment with a formulation that “family also arises from motherhood and fatherhood” — which would cover, for example, unmarried parents.
Lithuania is, of course, not without its “family diversity” champions, but a majority of MPs so far seems to support the move to enshrine a traditional definition of the family in the Constitution. There have been some colourful opinions, a Lithuanian website reports. One Social Democrat member said the alternative would see Lithuania degenerating into a savagery:
“I can’t help thinking that [unless we pass the amendment] we should return to primal community or live like animals in wilderness; take a herd of deers: one male and 12 females,” Bradauskas said.
Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius, a conservative, suggested that opponents of the amendment were misrepresenting its effects:
“No one is proposing to ban anything. If people want to live unmarried and have children, they will continue to do so freely, but why should that be called family?” the prime minister said.
A Liberal member talked good sense:
Liberal Gediminas Navaitis based his comments on his experience as a family psychologist and claimed that married couples were much happier. According to him, two lovers live unmarried either before marriage, or in case one party is more vulnerable financially or psychologically.
He said that the state could not ban all forms of cohabitation, but neither was it obliged to endorse them all. The state can and must select what to support, according to him.
“When everything is supported, it is usually the case that nothing is supported,” he noted.
We’ll be following this story up, so stay tuned.