LITHUANIA: Anti-gay law is vetoed

The President of Lithuania, Valdas Adamkus, has vetoed a proposed new law, approved last week by the Seimas (Parliament), that has been condemned for institutionalising homophobia and potentially harming young LGBT people.

The law, described by an MEP this week as “a spit into the face of European values”, would ban “propaganda for homosexuality and bisexuality” as one of the “detrimental effectors” on children.  The ban will not only include schools, but will also apply to “other places accessible to youngsters”.

The announcement of the veto came hours after a demonstration outside the Presidential Palace by students and activists from the Lithuanian Gay League and the LGBTQ advocacy group Tolerant Youth Association.

They were joined by the well-known gay singer, Ruslanas Kirilkinas who called on the President to be fair to all Lithuanian people and not to discriminate against them on grounds of their sexual orientation.

But Vytautas Valentinavičius, the chairman of Tolerant Youth Association, told UK Gay News this afternoon that the law was not dead yet.

“It now goes back to the Seimas,” he explained.  “And all it needs is 71 deputies to vote in favour of going ahead with the law, and it goes back to the President who must sign it within three days.”

Voting last week was 67 in favour, with just three against – and four abstentions.  There are 141 MEPs in the Seimas.

The reason for the presidential veto was not the homophobic nature of the law, but rather there were no definitions as to what is detrimental to the well-being of young people.

Yesterday, President Adamkus, who has less than two weeks remaining in office, said: “I do not know whether negative opinion of the international organisations on this law will have any influence upon my decision.”

Mr. Valentinavičius said he suspected a lot of political manoeuvring in today’s veto decision.

“He could be leaving the matter to the new President, a former commissioner of the European Union.

“The Seimas is at the end of current session and breaks up for the summer in days,” he explained.  “So this could drag on until the autumn.”

“The Catholic Church has an enormous influence on the President of Lithuania as well as Seimas,” Mr. Valentinavičius, pointed out.

He went on to say that the support of international organisations – and individuals from around the world – was very much appreciated by the LGBT community in Lithuania.

“There is not one word about LGBT rights in the statement issued today [by the Presidential Palace] where the President explains his decision to veto the controversial law,” Mr. Valentinavičius said.

“I am shocked with recent occurrences in Lithuania,” he admitted.

“I always thought Lithuania, a member of the European Union, would respect and protect the European values in the same way as it is respected elsewhere.  I never thought that these issues would ever be raised in Seimas.

“However, recent occurrences are a sign to all of us that not all European Union member states are willing to respect and protect European values.”

Angry response

Before the presidential veto, a stream of organisations expressed their dismay at the move.

“We are shocked that the Lithuanian legislator took such a regressive step in relation to combating discrimination,” commented Linda Freimane, co-chair of ILGA-Europe’s Executive Board.

“The experience in the UK with the very similar piece of legislation has already proven how this kind of legislation directly impacts LGB people generally and young LGB people in particular.

“So it is highly hypocritical of Lithuanian MPs to say that they are not targeting homosexual and bisexual people but they are only seeking to ensure ‘peace in the community’,” she emphasised.

Martin K.I. Christensen, the other co-chair of the Executive Board, added:  “We call on the European institutions to react firmly and without delay.

“This is clearly a discriminatory and dangerous move which is against the principles of the European Union, the Council of Europe and the United Nations.

“Young people, including young LGB people, deserve the same dignity and the same right to be protected, educated, and have an opportunity to achieve their full potential.

“Instead a Member State of the European Union just legitimised exclusion and discrimination against a whole fraction of the society by instituting a second class citizenship status to young LGB people and ripped them off of any support and protection.”

Amnesty International also criticised the plans.

Committee on the Rights of the Child

In 2002 the Committee recommended that the UK government:

“Provide adequate information and support to homosexual and transsexual young people, and encourages the State party, further to the statement of intent made by its delegation to repeal section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988, where it applies”.

Section 28 was a piece of legislation that stated that local authorities in England and Wales may not “intentionally promote homosexuality” or “promote the teaching of... the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretend family relationship”.

[Sources: UK Gay News]

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