By Andrius Sytas
VILNIUS (Reuters) - Lithuania's parliament on Tuesday voted narrowly against debating a bill legalising same-sex civil partnerships, but supporters said they would adjust the proposal and eventually resubmit it to the assembly.
In a razor thin vote, 63 lawmakers voted in favour and 65 against accepting the measure for discussion, with some opponents declaring same-sex partnerships to be a gateway to same-sex marriage, a status they reject.
A representative poll in April commissioned by the president's office found 70% of adult Lithuanians against same-sex partnerships.
"The vote illustrates that ensuring human rights is a long-term process which needs much more work", Tomas Raskevicius, an openly gay member of parliament who sponsored the bill, told Reuters.
He said he would try to introduce the bill again in autumn, with some unspecified changes to try placate critics.
A third of parliamentarians from the conservative ruling Homeland Union party voted against debating the bill, a signature policy of a junior liberal partner of the ruling coalition, with 15 of them signing a petition to put it to a referendum.
Homeland Union leader Gabrielius Landsbergis, who is also the Foreign Minister and co-sponsored the bill, said he would work in his party to change wording in the bill before trying again. "We need to talk more, we need more discussions", he told reporters, according to BNS wire.
Police estimate 10,000 thousand people took part in an event in Vilnius in mid-May to protest against the partnership legislation, billed as The Great Family Defence March.
The nation of 2.8 million, once ruled from Moscow, has been a member of the European Union and NATO since 2004.
A Lithuanian artist has raised over $6,000 for LGBT groups by selling a digital collage of homophobic messages that were sent to Raskevicius, the first gay rights activist to be elected to parliament.
(Reporting by Andrius Sytas in Vilnius, Editing by William Maclean)