(NEW YORK – C-FAM) The European Parliament voted 349 to 218 today to condemn Lithuania for its “law on the protection of minors” which prohibits promotion of “homosexual, bisexual or polygamous relations” among children under 18 in the Baltic nation. Conservative critics contend that the measure, crafted in reaction to the domestic legislation of a sovereign member state pertaining to the family, oversteps the Parliament’s authority.
The resolution directs the Agency for Fundamental Rights to opine on whether the law contravenes European anti-discrimination standards. Any such opinion would be non-binding, though activists would likely use it to press for greater recognition of rights based on “sexual orientation.”
An earlier proposal by the Alliance of Liberal and Democrats for Europe (ALDE), the “liberal” parliamentary faction, would have initiated proceedings to suspend Lithuania pursuant to article 7 of the Treaty on European Union, the 1992 pact that created the European Union (EU). Parliamentarians principally affiliated with the Christian Democratic grouping, the European People’s Party (EPP), worked behind the scenes to soften the resolution and remove the Article 7 reference.
While “progressive” parliamentarians lined up to charge Lithuania with promoting “homophobia,” several EPP and conservative members spoke in opposition to the measure and in support of the country’s sovereign right to pass laws protecting families and children, including Lithuania’s first post-Soviet head of state Vytautas Landsbergis and Slovak parliamentarian Anna Záborksá.
Nevertheless, the EPP remained divided on the measure, with virtually every EPP member from France voting to censure Lithuania. Surprisingly, Malta’s delegation, including its two EPP representatives, voted as a bloc against Lithuania.
Lithuania’s Parliament, or Seimas, passed the child protection legislation in June. The President vetoed it, in apparent reaction to criticism from Western European politicians and homosexual advocacy organizations. In July, Lithuania’s parliament overrode the veto. The law is scheduled to take effect in March 2010.
David Quinn, Director of Ireland’s Iona Institute and a family rights advocate, called the resolution “a completely unwarranted intrusion in the domestic affairs of a member state.” Critics such as Quinn see the non-discrimination principle, particularly with respect to sexual orientation, being used to trump long-enshrined values such as religious liberty and parental rights. Quinn called anti-discrimination “the skeleton key that opens every room of the house.”
Some observers expect the Parliamentary action to have repercussions in Ireland, where the nation will vote in a second referendum on the Lisbon Treaty next month.
While the EU has “guaranteed” that Ireland’s constitutional protection of unborn life would be unaffected by a “yes” vote on Lisbon, the European Parliament’s action on Lithuania has fueled concerns among Irish euroskeptics that European institutions would seek to override the Republic’s domestic laws. Among other changes, the Lisbon Treaty would make the Charter of Fundamental Rights binding upon members. While silent on abortion, critics fear an activist European Court of Justice reading such a right into the charter.
Forty-six parliamentarians abstained on the Lithuanian resolution, including three Irish EPP members. The four Irish ALDE members broke with their party and voted against the resolution, a move insiders see as tactical and intended to forestall criticism in advance of the Lisbon referendum.