VILNIUS, Lithuania: Quoting Pope Francis' argument that civil unions distort the concept of marriage and family, Lithuanian bishops have called upon politicians to scrap a proposed same-sex partnership law.
After voting down a similar bill in May 2021, last month Lithuania's parliament voted to continue debating a draft bill legalizing same-sex civil partnerships.
In a pastoral letter to followers, the Lithuanian Bishops Conference quoted a 2016 treatise by Pope Francis, which states, "de facto unions or unions of the same sex cannot simply be equated with marriage."
"The draft law on civil unions essentially proposes what Pope Francis urges us not to do - to equate de facto unions and same-sex unions with marriage. We cannot support this bill, which distorts and devalues the concepts of marriage and the family," the bishops wrote, stressing civil partnership could be "a Trojan Horse" leading to civil marriage.
The letter did not touch on Pope Francis' 2020 declaration that gays should be protected by civil union laws.
An opinion poll conducted in 2021 found that 70 percent of adult Lithuanians oppose same-sex partnerships. In addition, 75 percent of Lithuania's 2.8 million people identify as Roman Catholics.
During the debate before the vote on taking the bill up for further readings, several parliamentarians also called homosexuality a "sin."
To appease critics, the same-sex bill no longer defines partnerships as an "emotional connection" or allows partners to assume a common surname.
Gabrielius Landsbergis, head of the ruling Homeland Union party, said the law could better defend human dignity, but support was needed, and this wording was the minimum possible threshold.
An alternative bill, fully supported by Lithuanian bishops, is also under consideration in the parliament, and will allow a group of people to declare a "close connection" and be given additional rights.