On April 12, 2019 Panevėžys District Court has decided that the civil status record may contain a surname with the letter “x”.
In 2018 the applicant married a Belgian national and chose the spouse’s name. However, when registering a marriage in Lithuania, Panevėžys Registrar’s Office did not satisfy the applicant’s request to enter her surname in its original form – Bruyndonckx to the Population Register. The applicant was forced to to take the initiative by her own.
In this case, the Court noted that “the existing legal regulation is not sufficient to meet the social needs expressed by individuals and to guarantee their rights”. The Court recalled that under Article 2.20 (1) of the Civil Code of Republic of Lithuania each person has the right to a name, which includes the right to a surname and a pseudonym. The judgment also refers to the case-law of the international courts, which states that the name of a person is one of the elements of his or her identity and private life, which is protected by Article 7 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and Article 8 of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. Although Art. 7 of the Charter does not explicitly ensure the right to the name of the person, they are no less related to the private and family life of the person, as it is a means of identifying and assigning a person to a family.
In the present case, the Court found that refusal to register and issue a marriage record with the srname chosen by the applicant – Bruyndonckx, causes the applicant, personal and professional inconveniences, proving the authenticity of her identity and submitted documents. According to the Court, non-departure from the current legal framework and refusal to meet the applicant’s request would not be in line with the principle of fairness, would be disproportionate to the result sought by the applicant and the possible negative consequences for the applicant in case of different surnames in the records (the applicant’s family, children will always have to dispel the doubts about their identity and the authenticity of the documents they submit, and / or will face problems in the field of inheritance).
Evelina Dobrovolska, a lawyer and representative of families fighting for the original spelling of names and surnames, points out that in the international law, the name and surname are considered to be an essential part of each individual’s identity. The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has repeatedly pointed out that the legal regulation of spelling of names and surnames is a competence of each Member State and it is closely linked to culture, language history and sense of identity, but the state should respect the ECtHR jurisprudence, and every legal regulation must be objectively justified and applied to all citizens equally.
The European Foundation for Human Rights (EFHR), for its part, recalls that after receiving a court’s judgment the applicants do not have any difficulties – having the surname with “w”, “x” or “q” in the civil status record, this surname also appears in the Population Register.