June 4, 2009 – PinkNews
Section 28 style law likely to be passed in Lithuania to prohibit discussion of homosexuality in schools
by Staff Writer, PinkNews.co.uk
The Lithuanian Parliament is set to introduce a law to prohibit the discussion of homosexuality in schools. It is similar to the notorious Section 28 law in Britain that for years hampered the ability to teachers to discuss sexuality or help gay students. Yesterday the Lithuanian Parliament overwhelmingly voted in favour of moving forward to a final vote on an amendment to the ‘Law on the Protection of Minors against the Detrimental Effect of Public Information’
If passed the amendment will make it illegal to discuss homosexuality in schools and bans any reference to it in public information that can be viewed by children. Controversially, the proposed amendment classes homosexuality alongside the portrayal of physical or psychological violence, displaying a dead or mutilated body information that arouses fear or horror or that encourages self abuse or suicide.
Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell told PinkNews.co.uk: "This legislation is homophobic discrimination. As such, it clearly violates the European Convention on Human Rights and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. It also violates the equality and anti-discrimination clauses of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
"Lithuania has signed up to these international humanitarian declarations but it is now defying them. It wants the rights of EU and UN membership, but not the responsibilities. This legislation will be open to legal challenge in the European Court of Human Rights and in the European Court of Justice. But that will take years. I hope the EU will take swift and tough action. It must make it clear to Lithuania and other renegade homophobic member states that membership of the EU is conditional on adherence to EU laws and values. Member states cannot be allowed to pick and choose. Lithuania has no right to belong to European institutions if it violates their human rights principles."
Kate Allen Director of Amnesty International UK Director condemns the law: "’By voting to move forward with this bill, the Lithuanian parliament is threatening to deprive students access to the support and protection they may need. It is also saying that the government supports homophobia and discrimination against LGBT people, and risks inciting homophobia in the wider community. We had to live with a very similar form of legalised homophobia in the UK for 15 years and we know the damage such laws can do. The UK needs to be among the most vociferous in calling on the Lithuanians not to make this amendment law."
If passed into law, Lithuania could be in breach of the statement that it signed at the UN General Assembly last years that guaranteed human rights to everyone regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. Last October Lithuania’s Foreign Minister Petras Vaitiekunas said: "Lithuania is one of the most homophobic countries in the EU. This has to be viewed as a fact. The situation cannot be changed by any one party or minister."
LGBT advocacy group Tolerant Youth Association (TJA) said: "Neither agitation nor family values are defined in the newly approved law proposal, therefore it would allow to put a ban on basically any non-negative information on homosexuality. "It would be possible not only to ban websites and films (e.g. Brokeback Mountain) positively presenting homosexual relations, but also discos, exhibitions, demonstrations and other public events related to homosexuality if these could be accessed by minors."
The UK version, Section 28 was introduced by former Conservative Leader Michael Howard when he was Local Government Minister in 1988. In 2002, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child expressed concern about the law. It was repealed first in Scotland in 2000 and finally for the rest of the UK in 2003. Mr Howard later expressed his regret in his role of passing the discriminatory law.
June 17, 2009 – On Top Magazine
Lithuania Bans Gay Speech In Schools
by On Top Magazine Staff
The Lithuanian parliament, the Seimas, approved a bill Tuesday that bans gay speech in schools, Reuters reported. The bill prohibits schools from discussing being gay and bans any reference to homosexuality where it might be viewed by children. “The amendment denies the right to freedom of expression and deprives students access to the support and protection they may need,” said Nicola Duckworth of the human rights groups Amnesty International.
Lithuania similarly bans issues such as the portrayal of physical or psychological violence, the display of a dead or cruelly mutilated body of a person, and information that arouses fear or horror, or encourages self-mutilation or suicide, Amnesty International said. The bill bans information that “agitates for homosexual, bisexual relations or polygamy,” calling such information detrimental to youth. Critics said the bill’s broad language effectively bans any discussion of homosexuality except in a negative context, effectively legislating homophobia.
"This legislation is homophobic discrimination,” British gay rights activist Peter Tatchell told PinkNews.co.uk. “As such, it clearly violates the European Convention on Human Rights and the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. It also violates the equality and anti-discrimination clauses of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.”
"Lithuania has signed up to these international humanitarian declarations but it is now defying them. It wants the rights of EU and UN membership, but not the responsibilities. Lithuania has no right to belong to European institutions if it violates their human rights principles," he added. The bill requires the signature of President Valdas Adamkus to become law.
June 26, 2009 – PinkNews
Lithuanian President blocks homophobic law
by Staff Writer, PinkNews.co.uk
The President of Lithuania has vetoed a new law that would have banned materials that “agitate" for gay relationships from schools. Human Rights Watch said sources in the eastern European country had confirmed that President Adamkus vetoed the Law on Protection of Minors against the Detrimental Effect of Public Information.
The law would ban materials that “agitate for homosexual, bisexual and polygamous relations” from schools or public places where they could be seen by youth, on the grounds that they would have “detrimental effect on the development of minors”. The country’s parliament has the option of over-riding the Presidential veto. British MPs and peers and MEPs had condemned the law.
"It is my duty as an elected member of the European Parliament to act strongly against grave attempts to diminish human rights of EU citizens," said Michael Cashman, president of the European Parliament’s all-party Intergroup on LGBT rights. "This new law is a spit in the face of the European values. To limit freedom of expression based on homophobia is a clear breach of EU’s fundamental rights and principles."
14th July 2009 – IGLYO
Youth Organisations Outraged at Discriminatory Law
On the 14th July 2009, the Law on the Protection of Minors against Detrimental Effect of Public Information has been adopted by the Parliament of the Republic of Lithuania (XIP-110). This law presents public information that ‘agitates’ for homosexual or bisexual relations as detrimental to the development of minors, and as defying family values. International youth organisations IGLYO, ANSO, YFJ and OBESSU, and national youth organisations TJA and LSS strongly condemn the Law on the Protection of Minors against Detrimental Effect of Public Information, a piece of legislation that goes against the fundamental human rights of minors and those who work with them.
Neither ‘agitation’ nor ‘family values’ are defined in the newly-adopted law. We fear it will allow the prohibition of any non-negative information about homosexuality and bisexuality accessible for minors, such as movies, websites, articles, sexual education and even psychological help, much needed when a significant proportion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender young people experience mental health problems and attempt suicide.
The law will have a tremendously harmful effect on homosexual and bisexual children and adolescents, and potentially on other young people indirectly affected by the law. It further encourages the marginalisation and stigmatisation of young people from sexual minorities, and restricts their access to adequate information and support.
In 2008 the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe noted that suicide rates among young lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people was significantly higher than among the general youth population. The Parliamentary Assembly further stressed that these high suicidal rates are not a consequence of their sexual orientation or gender identity, but of the stigmatisation, marginalisation and discrimination experienced by young sexual minorities.
Furthermore, this piece of legislation is in breach of Article 10 § 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which states that ‘Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers’.
The law also breaches the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (Chapter III, Article 21, Part 1), which states that ‘Any discrimination based on any ground such as sex, race, colour, ethnic or social origin, genetic features, language, religion or belief, political or any other opinion, membership of a national minority, property, birth, disability, age or sexual orientation shall be prohibited’.
Finally, the law is in breach of the International Convention on the Rights of the Child’s Article 13, which guarantees the ‘freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media’.
The World Health Organisation took homosexuality off the list of mental disorders in 1990, and national legislations in Europe have steadily progressed in the past 20 years towards greater protection of sexual minorities. The Seimas has taken several steps backwards, doing so against the rights and interests of Lithuanians.
We call on the Lithuanian government and parliamentarians to acknowledge that such initiatives will not only have a strong negative impact on the socio-economical development of Lithuania, but also on its international credibility in upholding international human rights standards.
Simon Maljevac – IGLYO, Chairperson
Monika Grzywnowicz – ANSO, President
Tine Radinja – YFJ, President
Giuseppe Beccia – OBESSU, Secretary General
Vytautas Valentinavicius – TJA, Chairman
Dainius Diksaitis – LSS, President
July 15, 2009 – IGLHRC
Lithuania: Parliament Enacts Homophobic Censorship Law
New York – The International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) condemns the Lithuanian Parliament’s adoption of the homophobic "Law on the Protection of Minors Against Detrimental Effect of Public Information," on July 14, 2009. The new law outlaws the distribution of information about sexual orientation through any medium to which children have access.
"Lithuania has taken a huge step backward for human rights by enacting this law," said Cary Alan Johnson, Executive Director of IGLHRC. "Not only does it stifle the free expression of all people, but it could actively prevent children from getting a comprehensive and accurate sexual education, which is vital to their health and lives."
The new law prohibits information relating to lesbian, gay and bisexual people from being distributed to the public and may prevent the discussion of these issues in schools. It codifies discrimination based on sexual orientation, while also denying freedom of expression and inhibiting children’s rights to education, information, health, and life under international and European law.
Parliament first passed the new law on June 16, 2009. On July 26, the Lithuanian President rejected the legislation, referring it back to Parliament for reconsideration. However, the bill was finally approved by an 87-6 vote, with 25 abstentions. It will enter into force in March 2010.
IGLHRC has repeatedly called for the rejection of this law, first writing to the Speaker of the Lithuanian Parliament, Arunas Valinskas, and the Minister of Education and Science, Gintaras Steponavicius, on June 10th asking them to advocate for the law’s rejection. Then IGLHRC wrote to now-former President Valdas Adamkus on June 17th, asking him to refer the law back to the Parliament with instructions to remove its homophobic provisions. Finally, IGLHRC wrote to the Speaker and Minister of Education and Science again on July 10th, renewing the call to reject this homophobic law.
Lithuania decriminalized homosexuality in 1993, but has a recent history of banning gay pride events.
August 24, 2009 – PinkNews
MEPs complain to Lithuania about proposed criminalisation of gay "propaganda"
by Staff Writer, PinkNews.co.uk
The European Parliament Intergroup on Lesbian and Gay Rights has written to MPs in Lithuania about new legislation that aims to criminalise ‘propagation of homosexual relations’. Along with gay rights group ILGA-Europe, the MEPs said the proposed amendments are a severe limitation of freedom of speech and a breach of the principles of equality and non-discrimination of the European Union and the Council of Europe.
"Article 21 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union prohibits any form of discrimination, including on the grounds of sexual orientation," they wrote. "Article 13 of the Treaty of Amsterdam bans ‘all forms of discrimination on the grounds of gender, race or ethnic background, religion or creed, disability and sexual orientation’. The European Court of Human Rights on a number of occasions confirmed that sexual orientation discrimination is clearly in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights."
The MEPs said freedom of expression is essential for LGBT people to argue in favour of ending discrimination in the content and application of the law.
Michael Cashman, a British Labour MEP, said: "The proposed amendments by Lithuanian legislators to criminalise "promotion of homosexual relations in public places" will clearly violate the enjoyment of these human rights and will severely restrict the right of NGOs to organise peaceful public events. For discrimination (i.e. a difference in treatment) to be permitted by law, it has to be based on "reasonable and objective criteria". What such criteria might cover is still evolving under international human rights law, which is a living instrument that is constantly being developed by judicial bodies. Courts have repeatedly stated that where sexual orientation is in issue, there is a need for particularly convincing and weighty reasons to justify a difference in treatment."
The proposed legislation would make a criminal offence of "promotion of homosexual relations in public places", and would establish serious penalties.
September 9, 2009 – PinkNews
Amnesty sends warning over Lithuania’s criminalisation of ‘homosexual propaganda’
by Jessica Geen
Human rights charity Amnesty International has condemned plans by Lithuania to criminalise the "promotion" of homosexuality. Earlier this year, the European Union member state banned the promotion of homosexuality in schools. The new laws would go further than this, possibly criminalising any mention of homosexuality in public places at all. They would also establish severe penalties for transgressors.
According to Amnesty, punishable offences would include campaigning on human rights issues relating to sexual orientation and gender identity, providing sexual health information to lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans people or the organisation of gay film festivals and Pride events. Those who fall foul of the proposed laws could receive a fine, community service or a prison sentence. The charity has warned that if passed, the laws will prevent LGBT people from accessing vital services and will increase discrimination, violence and human rights abuses.
Nicola Duckworth, Amnesty’s Europe and Central Asia programme director, said: “These proposals are a new low in Lithuania’s slide to state-sponsored homophobia She added that anyone detained under the proposed amendments to the penal code would be considered by Amnesty International to be a prisoner of conscience.
“Twenty years after the fall of the Berlin wall the Lithuanian parliament is turning the clock back by imposing draconian limitations on the flow of information and the freedom of expression and stigmatising part of the population,” Duckworth said. “It is hard to believe that a member of the European Union should even be considering the adoption of such legislation. Parliamentarians, as the elected representatives of the people, should be the leading force in safeguarding the rights of all and respecting the country’s international obligations.”
Amnesty’s warning comes several weeks after MEPs and the gay rights group ILGA-Europe complained to Lithuanian MPs about the proposals, pointing out that they are "a severe limitation of freedom of speech and a breach of the principles of equality and non-discrimination of the European Union and the Council of Europe."
September 17, 2009 – PinkNews
EU opposes Lithuania’s ‘Section 28’ homosexuality law
by Jessica Geen
The European Union today voted to adopt a resolution criticising a recent law passed by Lithuania which prohibits any mention of homosexuality in schools or in media accessible by young people. The law, titled ‘Law on the Protection of Minors against the Detrimental Effect of Public Information‘, includes "the propaganda of homosexuality [or] bisexuality" as a detrimental factor on young people. It has been compared to Section 28, the law which prohibited discussion of homosexuality in UK schools.
In June, President Adamkus vetoed the law, but parliament has the power to override him and did so on July 14th with a vote of 87-6. It is expected the law will come into force on March 1st 2010. Gay rights campaigners said it would lead to increased homophobic bulling and discrimination against gay people. They also raised concerns that LGBT young people would not be able to access the information they need. In July, Amnesty International said it was a "bad day for LGBT rights", while Stonewall chief executive Ben Summerskill described the move as a "tragedy".
Michael Cashman, the openly gay president of the European Parliament’s LGBT intergroup, said of the law: "The ideology behind the text is pure homophobia. It is crucial to allow young people to speak, think and act, in the respect of others who are different. Young people need education not isolation. Recalling Section 28, he said: "We should not allow a similar text to be implemented in another member state. It would be a dangerous step back to the past, for the whole of the European Union."
The resolution states that the law is in breach of EU and international treaties and anti-discrimination texts. It calls for the Agency for Fundamental Rights to give an opinion on the law in light of them. "This new parliament has showed today that it will not accept intolerance and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, and we will fight on to keep this stance alive," concluded Cashman.
A working-group has been set up by the Lithuanian president and a final vote will be taken before the end of the year. The European Parliament will follow the issue through its Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs. Section 28 was introduced by former Conservative leader Michael Howard when he was local government minister in 1988. In 2002, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child expressed concern about the law.
It was repealed first in Scotland in 2000 and finally for the rest of the UK in 2003. Howard later expressed his regret in his role of passing the discriminatory law and currently Tory leader David Cameron apologised for it this year.
December 8, 2009 – Human Rights Watch
Lithuania: Reject Homophobic Law Proposal – Ban on Information About Sexual Orientation Would Endanger Youth
(New York) – Lithuania’s parliament (the Seimas) should eliminate all discriminatory and repressive language in a new law designed to censor information available to children, Human Rights Watch said yesterday in a letter to a key lawmaker. It called on the Seimas to repeal an amendment forbidding public information encouraging "homosexual and bisexual relations."
The letter to the chairman of the Standing Committee on Education, Science and Culture of the Seimas, Valentinas Stundys, addressed ongoing efforts by the parliament to revise the controversial law and make it consistent with Lithuania’s human rights commitments. The law has been a subject of intense debate through much of 2009.
"Depriving young people of information they need to decide about their lives and protect their health is a regressive move," said Boris Dittrich, advocacy director of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Rights program at Human Rights Watch. "Instead of protecting children, Lithuania is condemning them to ignorance, danger, and fear."
The Seimas first passed the "Law on the Protection of Minors against the Detrimental Effect of Public Information" on June 16, 2009. Then President Valdas Adamkus vetoed the law, but parliament overruled the veto. The current president who took office in July, Dalia Grybauskaite, established a presidential committee to review the text of the law. This committee proposed amendments to delete all discriminatory language from the text of the law.
However, while the Seimas was discussing these amendments, one member introduced the new amendment, forbidding public information which encourages "homosexual and bisexual relations," as well as polygamy. A majority of the Seimas voted in favor of this amendment. The Standing Committee on Education, Science and Culture must now propose a final text of the law to the full parliament.
Lithuania ratified the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms in 1995. The Convention bars discrimination, and protects freedom of expression. The European Court of Human Rights – charged with authoritatively interpreting the Convention and with ensuring states’ adherence to it – has repeatedly found that the treaty’s protections against discrimination bar unequal treatment based on sexual orientation. In the 2007 case of Baczkowski and others v. Poland, the court found that Poland violated the treaty in banning an LGBT parade.
The court stressed the importance of free assembly and association and of pluralism in a democratic society, noting that "this obligation is of particular importance for persons holding unpopular views or belonging to minorities, because they are more vulnerable to victimization."
Lithuania is also a member of the European Union (EU). The Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU, which affirms human rights among the core values of the Union and which came into legal effect with the entry into force of the Treaty of Lisbon on December 1, guarantees freedom of expression and information and bars discrimination on any ground, including sexual orientation
"This law violates Lithuania’s public promises and its treaty obligations," Dittrich said. "Lawmakers should realize that the best way to protect their youth is to respect their rights."
December 23, 2009 – PinkNews
Lithuanian parliament revises ‘gay ban’ law
by Jessica Geen
Lithuania has revised a controversial law banning the "promotion" of homosexuality. According to AFP, the country’s parliament voted 58-4, with 25 abstentions, to amend the law. It prohibited the "public dissemination" of any materials which could be seen to promote homosexuality. The country has already banned any mention of homosexuality or bisexuality in schools or in media accessible by young people. The law was compared to Section 28, the law which prohibited discussion of homosexuality in UK schools.
According to Amnesty, punishable offences would include campaigning on human rights issues relating to sexual orientation and gender identity, providing sexual health information to lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans people or the organisation of gay film festivals and Pride events. Instead, lawmakers yesterday approved changes which would ban the "encouraging the sexual abuse of minors, sexual relations between minors and other sexual relations".
A spokesman for President Dalia Grybauskaite, who had called for the amendment, told AFP: "The homophobic clauses have been removed. The law is in line with European standards." The legislation also prohibited the mention of bisexuality, polygamy, images of straight sex, death and severe injury, the paranormal, foul language and bad eating habits. It did not specify punishments for breaking the law.
However, gay rights activists in Lithuania have said that events such as Pride marches could still be banned under the revised law, which also bars the promotion of "any concept of the family other than that set down in the constitution". Vladimir Simonko, head of the Lithuanian Gay League, said the law had been written by "a bunch of Bible-bashers", adding: "From now on, any of our public events could fall under that clause and be banned."
February 26, 2010 – PinkNews
Homophobic Lithuanian law comes into power next week
by Jessica Geen
A controversial law which bans the promotion of gay marriage in Lithuania comes into power on Monday. The law was amended in December after international criticism. Before, it prohibited the “public dissemination” of any materials which could be seen to promote homosexuality. Instead, lawmakers approved changes which would ban the “encouraging the sexual abuse of minors, sexual relations between minors and other sexual relations”.
“Other sexual relations” means that campaigning for gay marriage or civil partnerships will be illegal, human rights group Amnesty International has argued. Gay Pride marches may also be banned. The law now classifies any information which “denigrates family values” or which “encourages a concept of marriage and family other than stipulated in the Constitution” as detrimental to children and bans it from places accessible to them.
Lithuanian law defines marriage as the union of a man and a woman. John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s expert on discrimination, said: “This law will violate the freedom of expression and will directly discriminate against people on account of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
“It will stigmatise gay and lesbian people and exposes advocates for their rights to the risk of censorship and financial penalties.” He added that the law was an “anachronism” in the European Union and called on Lithuanian authorities to scrap it. The legislation also prohibits the mention of bisexuality, polygamy, images of straight sex, death and severe injury, the paranormal, foul language and bad eating habits. It does not specify punishments for breaking the law.
18 March 2010 – Amnesty International
Amnesty International condemns MPs’ call to use recently adopted homophobic legislation to ban the Baltic Pride
Over 50 Lithuanian parliamentarians, including many from the two leading parties in the governing coalition, have signed a petition calling for the 2010 Baltic Pride march to be banned. The march is currently scheduled to take place in Vilnius on 8 May. The organizers of the Baltic Pride received authorization for the march from the Vilnius City Council in January, but the signers of the petition are alleging that the march will violate the controversial Law on the Detrimental Effect of Public Information on Minors, which entered into force on 1 March this year.
The Law on the Detrimental Effect of Public Information on Minors classifies any information which “denigrates family values”, or which encourages a concept of marriage other than the union of a man and a woman, as detrimental to children and consequently bans such information from places accessible to them. Amnesty International has repeatedly voiced its fears that this law would be used to restrict the freedom of expression of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and advocates for their rights.
The parliamentarians who have signed this petition have clearly exposed the homophobic motivation behind the adoption of the recent law and their intention that it should be used to stifle any public discussion of homosexuality or public expression of the identity of lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people. Amnesty International reiterates its call for the Law on the Detrimental Effect of Public Information on Minors to be revised so as to remove all possibility of its being applied in a manner that stigmatises or discriminates against lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people or violates their rights to freedom of assembly and expression.
Amnesty International calls on the Lithuanian authorities and, in particular, the Vilnius City Council, to ensure that the Baltic Pride march takes place as planned and currently authorized, with all the necessary security arrangements to prevent disruption by possible counter-protesters.
March 22, 2010 – Asylum Law
Lithuanian MPs try to stop pride parade
by Rex Wockner
Fifty members of Lithuania’s Parliament have petitioned the Prosecution Office to stop the Vilnius city government from permitting a gay pride parade in May. The MPs say the parade would violate the new "Law on the Protection of Minors Against the Detrimental Effect of Public Information." The law, which took effect March 1, bans information that promotes sexual relationships, "denigrates family values" or encourages a nonheterosexual concept of marriage and family. Such information is prohibited wherever it could be accessed by a minor.
The petition states: "It is obvious that one of the aims of the parade … is the promotion of the organization (Lithuanian Gay League) and attraction of new members — also the demonstration of a positive attitude towards nontraditional families. Therefore, the parade may be treated as the dissemination of public information." The MPs said the parade also could provoke anti-gays to riot.
May 5, 2010 – Baltic Reports
Gay parade permit revoked by court
by Adam Mullett
Vilnius — The Vilnius Regional Administrative Court has ruled to suspend the permit given to the Baltic Pride gay parade organizers, meaning that the parade is no longer legally sanctioned by the Vilnius municipality. The mayor of Vilnius Vilius Navickas went against other conservative politicians and gave the Baltic Pride organizers the right to parade in the city. The parade has seen intense opposition from politicians and conservative interest groups. The standing Prosecutor General Raimondas Petrauskas and member of Kaunas city council Stanislovas Buškevicius tendered an official complaint to the court asking them to suspend the parade for fear of attacks on the participants.
“We have reason to believe that the state will not be able to provide proper protection for the participants,” the submission said. The court found on May 5 at midday that there was sufficient grounds to believe that police could not guarantee the safety of participants and therefore suspended permission to hold the parade. “We are not against gay parade, but we have received the information that it might be difficult to ensure public safety. We have written a letter to the organizers of the parade, saying that we have no purpose to ban the rally. We just think that there will be troubles during the event,” Petrauskas told Alfa.lt.
Authorities have speculated that far-right skinhead groups may attempt to break up the parade with violence. Meanwhile Vilnius has seen several anti-gay demonstrations over the past year, showcasing the country’s Catholic conservatism. “We are a European country, and we act according to the European laws, of course we are not against gender equality, but we have to have in mind the dangers. This parade is like a red rag for a bull,” the prosecutor told the Baltic News Service.
“I can’t say firmly, that there will be a riot. I am not against the parade, let them hold it, and that will happen sooner or later, and we have to conciliate with this, to get used to this, to accept it, but when the economy is in bad situation, there are lots of unemployed workers, and it’s very easy to provoke disorder,” the prosecutor said. The fear of violence has been used to stop gay rallies in the past. In 2007 the Vilnius city council unanimously barred an EU-sponsored tolerance of minorities rally from taking place, citing fears that anti-gay protesters may become violent.
President Dalia Grybauskaite said she was shocked by the decision and questioned why different authorities were contradicting each other. “The president is astounded by the miscommunication between the relevant departments to jointly assess the risks. Surprising is the fact that the police claim that they are ready to ensure safety, but the Acting Prosecutor General sees a threat,” the president’s spokesman Linas Balsys told BNS.
Grybauskaite cited the constitution, which says that people have the right to meet in peaceful gatherings. “The agencies responsible for public order, particularly the police, must ensure peace and avoid conflict. The constitution guarantees the right to peaceful assembly. If a citizens’ groups or organization is not banned by law, they have the right to express their opinion,” Balsys said. Other events in the Baltic Pride program, such as the tolerance film festival and various other meetings will still go ahead as planned.
In the closet
Lithuanians are the least aware of homosexual people in their families or circle of acquaintances in the European Union. According to a Eurobarometer survey released in November, some 93 percent of Lithuanians are unaware of the existence of gay people living in their community. The EU average is 38 percent being aware of gay people in the community.
The head of the pro-LGBT advocacy group Tolerant Youth Association Arturas Rudomanskis told Baltic Reports that widespread homophobia is to blame. “Many politicians don’t fight homophobia and some even increase it more … there are also some homophobic groups like religious groups and concerned people who are trying to increase homophobia,” Rudomanskis said. “They are not ready to talk about that — there is no chance to hear about it in schools and there are no lessons about that and if there are some it is homophobic,” he added.
7 May 2010 – BBC News
Lithuania overturns gay pride ban
Lithuania’s first gay pride parade can go ahead as planned on Saturday, an appeals court has ruled. Earlier this week, a lower court outlawed the parade after the chief prosecutor argued that anti-gay groups could cause violence. But the appeals court ruled that the state must ensure the right to peaceful assembly. Correspondents say that homosexuality is seen as taboo by many in Lithuania, a majority Roman Catholic country.
The original ban was criticised by President Dalia Grybauskaite, some European governments, and the international rights watchdog Amnesty International. Organisers of Saturday’s Baltic Pride 2010 march have welcomed the ruling, which is final. The parade in the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius, is expected to draw 350 participants and an even larger crowd of opponents, according to the Associated Press news agency.
Some 800 police officers will be on hand to maintain order, and have been instructed to confiscate harmful objects as well as tomatoes and eggs, the Baltic Pride organisers said on their website. The ruling issued by the top Vilnius appeals court said: "The state has a duty to ensure the right to peaceful assembly, even of people whose opinions are not popular or represent minorities." Lithuania, an EU member since 2004, has repeatedly been criticised by rights groups for widespread intolerance toward sexual minorities.
May 8, 2010 – PinkNews
Baltic Gay Pride ban overturned by Lithuanian Supreme Court
by Staff Writer, PinkNews.co.uk
A Lithuanian court of appeal last night overturned a ban on the country’s first gay pride event, so that it can take place in the next few hours. Despite assurances from police that hundreds of marchers through the capital Vilnius would be protected, the Lithuanian Attorney General’s Office argued that they could be injured by anti-gay groups. A court sided with the Attorney General and banned the the Baltic Pride march on the 6th May. Yesterday the Supreme Administration Court rejected that decision saying the Lithuanian Government had a duty to protect free assembly even if its by "those who share unpopular points of view or are members of minority groups."
Attorney General Raimundas Petrauskas denied the decision was down to homophobia. He said: "Whose fault would it be if anyone gets hurt? It might look like we are homophobic, but I am not sure if we’d look better with pictures of violence on TV." He added that he had received information that several extremist groups were planning to protest against the march. But police told the court they were ready to send 800 officers to protect gay marchers and the decision to suspend the event was criticised by Lithuanian president Dalia Grybauskaite. She said she was "surprised" at the decision and confirmed the constitutional right to peaceful assembly.
Politician Petras Grazulis planned to join an anti-gay demonstration said the court had been swayed by Mrs Grybauskaite comments. "I think there are symptoms of constitutional violations that may lead to an impeachment process." A poll four years ago found that 80 per cent of people in Lithuania believed homosexuality to be a medical disease. A survey in March of this year found that 73 per cent opposed a gay pride march being held in Vilnius. Lithuania recently passed into power a law which gay campaigners said would ban the promotion of gay marriage.
The law was amended in December after international criticism. Before, it prohibited the “public dissemination” of any materials which could be seen to promote homosexuality. Instead, lawmakers approved changes which would ban the “encouraging the sexual abuse of minors, sexual relations between minors and other sexual relations”. The legislation also prohibits the mention of bisexuality, polygamy, images of straight sex, death and severe injury, the paranormal, foul language and bad eating habits. It does not specify punishments for breaking the law.
May 9, 2010 – Care2
Lithuania’s Gay Pride: Despite Molotov Cocktails, Smokebombs and Protests, They Marched
On Friday, it emerged that Lithuania’s first gay pride march to be held in the capital, Vilnius, on Saturday, had been reinstated by a supreme court ruling that cited international human rights law. This came after a last minute appeal was made by LGBT rights groups to overturn a lower court decision to suspend the parade’s license. You can read more about that here. While being widely praised by international human rights and LGBT rights advocates, the go ahead was overshadowed by threats of violence from right-wing groups and anti-gay protesters.
On Saturday, things didn’t get off to a good start. Early in the morning, a Molotov cocktail was thrown at the building of Youth for Tolerance, a human rights organization that helped to organize the Baltic Pride event. Fortunately, the device failed to ignite and there were no reported casualties. Regardless, the march itself went ahead, with 400-500 people marching in the parade, a larger number than had been expected. LGBTs and straight allies came from miles around to attend with a strong foreign contingent being present. Marchers walked beneath a huge rainbow banner and carried placards saying "Human Rights Are My Pride", "Different Families, Same Love" and "Marching For Those Who Can’t."
From the Associated Press:
Holding large rainbow flags and dancing to music blaring from loudspeakers, they walked along a road near the city’s Neris river. Participants included many foreigners, diplomats and members of the European Parliament. "We are here because we believe … in a just society. Labels are for filing, for clothing, not for people. And we are here today to remove labels from people," said Birgitta Ohlsson, Sweden’s minister for European Union affairs.
27 October 2010 – EuObserver
Lithuanian parliament protects anti-gay MPs from prosecution
by Leigh Phillips
EUOBSERVER / Brussels – The Lithuanian parliament has voted to protect from prosecution two MPs implicated in violence directed towards a gay-pride parade. In June this year, the country’s prosecutor general requested that the parliament strip Kazimieras Uoka of the centre-right Homeland Union and Christian Democrats, Lithuania’s largest political party, and Petras Gražulis, of the Order and Justice Party, a self-declared liberal party but sharply opposed to gay rights, of their parliamentary immunity after they were accused of violent scuffles with police protecting the pride demonstrators.
As MPs in the country have immunity from prosecution, it requires a vote in the Seimas, the country’s parliament to give its assent before any prosecution can proceed against a national deputy. According to individuals familiar with the case who spoke to EUobserver, in May the two MPs crossed police barriers and disobeyed orders from authorities to remain within a zone allocated to what turned out to be a thousands-strong anti-pride demonstration. At which point the deputies participated in violent scuffles with police and kicked an activist from the Tolerant Youth Association, which had helped organise the event.
The gay rights march, numbering between 300 and 500 people and including several MEPs and government ministers from other EU states, was nevertheless dwarfed by its opponents, say witnesses. An analysis of information on the event by the prosecutor general drew the conclusion that there is a sufficient basis for believing the actions of the two MPs to be in violation of administrative and criminal law.
The pride march provoked an outburst of violence from opponents. Police fired tear gas to disperse some 2,000 counter demonstrators after they threw rocks, bottles and fireworks at participants. The anti-pride protesters hurled abuse at the marchers, shouting "down with the homo-Nazis". Earlier in the day, a Molotov cocktail was thrown at the Tolerant Youth Association building.
A total of 19 anti-pride demonstrators were arrested. However, on 19 October, the Seimus rejected 56 to 35 the prosecutor general’s request for a lifting of immunity. The two MPs told a parliamentary commission of inquiry that their actions were taken in defence of Lithuanian values expressed in the constitution. European human rights campaigners told this website that the country has one of the worst records in the EU when it comes to the state of gay and lesbian equality.
"Poland often gets quite a bad reputation, but the situation in Lithuania is pretty, pretty bad," Juris Lavrikovs, spokesman for the International Gay and Lesbian Association – Europe, said. "The situation varies across the Baltics," he continued. "Under Communism, Estonia has free access to Finnish television, so gay rights was less of a new idea and they quickly adapted themselves to the values of the global village when democracy came, while Latvia, there are still problems, but the discourse is changing. The prime minister has said he supports registered parnerships [for gays and lesbians]. It’s also more Protestant-oriented, while in Lithuania, the Catholic Church is deeply rooted in the country."
The pride march was banned in 2007 and 2008 and again in 2010 until Lithuania’s top court overturned a lower court’s suspension of the event after the European Commission wrote to the government expressing its concern at the situation. Last week, an amendment of the country’s ‘Law on the Provision of Information’ that bans audiovisual communication and advertising ‘promoting sexual orientation’ came into effect. Literature on gay rights, health information, or even night-club advertising could be outlawed by the change, worry campaigners.