A gay lawmaker in Lithuania plans on introducing a bill to legalize gay civil unions next year. Tomas Vytautas Raskevičius told Reuters there’s a good chance the bill will become law in the next session of parliament.
Raskevičius is the second out MP in Lithuania’s history, but the first to campaign as out and proud before taking office. He famously campaigned in drag, leaving little doubt among voters.
“We’re going to submit the bill in the spring session in March,” Raskevičius told Reuters. “There are some members of the [majority Homeland Union party] who have already declared they are not going to vote for it, so we’re going to look for some additional votes from the opposition, but I think we should be fine.”
Raskevičius said introduction of the bill in the upcoming session of parliament was a condition of the minority Labor Party joining the ruling coalition. The 31-year-old Raskevičius is a member of the newly formed Freedom Party, which advocates for full LGBTQ+ rights, decriminalization of drugs, and achieving carbon neutrality by the year 2040 among other issues.
Lithuania decriminalized queer sex in 1993 and workplace discrimination against LGBTQ+ people was outlawed in 2003, but the former Soviet Union satellite state lags behind the rest of the Western world in establishing full rights for LGBTQ+ people — such as marriage equality and adoption rights.
The Baltic state is deeply conservative, with over 75 percent of the population identifying as Roman Catholic.
The country’s constitution still defines marriage as existing between a man and woman, stating that “marriage shall be concluded upon the free mutual consent of a man and a woman.”
Lithuania also has a law known as the Protection of Minors law, which outlaws the discussion of homosexuality with a minor. That law is currently under review by the European Court of Human Rights, but Raskevičius indicated he’d prefer to have the legislation repealed by his country’s parliament before the European court makes a ruling.
Raskevičius is not the first out MP in Lithuania. That honor goes to the late Rokas Zilinskas, who died in 2017, but Raskevičius is the first MP to actively campaign and win an election as an out candidate. He famously campaigned in full drag, leaving no doubt to his LGBTQ+ bona fides.
Despite his newfound fame, Raskevičius remains focused on fulfilling his campaign promises and setting an example for other queer Lithuanians.
“It feels empowering,” he observed about his election victory and becoming a member of parliament. “But now I also feel a big responsibility because people gave me their trust and the mandate to fulfil their promises, and now I really have to work very hard to make this happen.”