LITHUANIA: Euro-Politicians Again Hit Out at Anti-Gay Proposals by Lithuanian MPs

Summary: The European Parliament is urging Lithuanian MPs to reject a draft law to criminalise the 'promotion of homosexual relations’, which follows the 2009 legislation banning minors from accessing information on homosexuality.

[STRASBOURG, 19 January 2011]    The European Parliament today called on Lithuanian MPs to reject an amendment to the Lithuanian Code of Administrative Offences.  The proposed amendment, if passed by the Lithuania Seimas, would punish the ‘public promotion of homosexual relations’ with fines from €580 to €2,900.

Since 2009, Lithuania has amended its legislation to ban minors from accessing information on homosexuality, censor mentions of sexual orientation in advertising, and withdraw sexual orientation from the list of grounds protected by its educational equal opportunity policy.

Today’s resolution calls on Lithuanian law-makers to reject the proposed amendment put forward by MP Petras Gražulis of the Order and Justice party, and review previously-passed homophobic laws.

The resolution also welcomes positive developments in Lithuania, such as previous presidential vetoes on homophobic laws, and the inclusion of sexual orientation as a motive for hate crime.

“We need to educate people – including children and youth – about the different forms of sexuality that have always existed in every culture, everywhere in the world, including in Lithuania,” Austrian Green MEP Ulrike Lunacek, a co-president of the Parliament’s LGBT Intergroup, commented.

“Hiding facts from young people generates fearful attitudes, prejudice and hate, something Europeans stand united against.”

And two other Green MEPs, Jean Lambert and Keith Taylor – both from the UK – agreed.

“The European Parliament has today sent a clear message to the Lithuanian parliament that homophobia has no place in the European Union – not in its society and certainly not enshrined in any of its legislation, Ms. Lambert said in a statement to UK Gay News.

“Unfortunately this is not the first time we have been forced to issue such calls,” she continued. “This new draft legislation will serve to make homophobia even more socially acceptable by extending this ludicrous ban to the undefined ‘public’ sphere.

“If Lithuania wishes to remain a part of the European Union then its basic laws must respect our common core values and agreed basic, fundamental, human rights, namely the freedom of expression and equality of treatment,” she insisted.

Mr. Taylor, who also sits on the Intergroup for LGBT rights with Ms. Lambert, added: “I join my fellow MEPs in calling on the Lithuanian parliament to reconsider introducing this hateful legislation.

“This law would criminalise events such as gay pride marches and allow the government to discriminate against people on the basis of their sexual orientation.  It would be a clear contravention of the European Convention on Human Rights and the European Charter of Fundamental Rights which are designed to protect the rights of all of Europe’s citizens.

“If Lithuania decides to pass this legislation we have asked the European Commission to immediately start infringement proceedings,” he added.

ALDE MEP Sophie in’t Veld (Netherlands), a vice-president of the Intergroup, said that governments claiming that LGBT rights are not part of their culture were “misguided”.

“Oppressing and discriminating against part of the population cannot be defined as ‘culture’, she said.

“It is high time the European Commission sets out a comprehensive strategy for LGBT equality, analogous to its strategies for gender equality or against racism and xenophobia.”

London Lib-Dem (ALDE) MEP Sarah Ludford, European justice and human rights spokeswoman, said that, coming from the UK, she was able to warn of the dangers of a ‘ban on gay promotion’ law.

“ … we had the infamous ‘section 28’.  But I was also able to offer hope of changed attitudes, as has happened in the Conservative party leadership.

“A law which bans ‘promotion’ of homosexuality could collide head-on with EU law on equal employment rights.  On the wider human rights front, it would inhibit proper sex and citizenship education, have a chilling effect on free speech in the media, arts, and political activity – and be a pretext to ban gay pride marches.

“The European Commission must not wait for this legislation to come into force,” she insisted. “It must consider infringement proceedings for prospective breaches of job rights and send warnings about breach of EU/European Convention on Human Rights free speech obligations.

“People and politicians are entitled to their own opinions on homosexuality, as confirmed by the [yesterday’s] UK court judgement finding the owners of the Chymorvah Hotel in Cornwall had breached the law when they banned a gay couple.

“But that freedom of thought must not be translated into discrimination, hate crime or silencing of protest,” she concluded.

Speaking after the vote, Claude Moraes MEP, UK Labour’s spokesperson in the European Parliament on civil liberties, said: “This sends a strong signal to Lithuanian legislators that they have an international obligation to respect fundamental human rights.

“The European Commission must continue to monitor the situation and take firm and appropriate action should Lithuanian legislation be found to breach EU treaties, Directives, or the Charter of Fundamental Rights.”

And Labour’s Michael Cashman MEP, co-president of the Parliament’s LGBT rights ‘allc party’ Intergroup added: “It is vital that Lithuania abides by its obligations under EU law, and protects the rights of minorities.

“The proposals before the Seimas clearly promote discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, and breaches Article six of the Treaty on European Union.  The Lithuanian proposal tries to recreate Margaret Thatcher’s notoriously harmful Section 28; there is no place for this in a modern, civilised society.”

MEPs have long followed developments in Lithuania which joined the EU in 2004; it lags way behind in the narrow intolerance of its discourse on sexual orientation, despite having to implement EU anti-discrimination laws.

And this aspect was addressed after the Strasbourg debate by ILGA-Europe.

“During the debate at the European Parliament, both the members of the European Parliament and Viviane Reding, the vice-president of the European Commission and Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship, expressed concerns with the proposed legislation and stated that the adoption of such a law would contradict one of the basic fundamental principles of the European Union – freedom from discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation,” ILGA-Europe said.

The NGO said that in the past two years  Lithuania has been the subject of intense scrutiny by the European institutions and international human rights organisations.

“Indeed, the currently proposed legislation is not the first attempt to institutionalise discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation and limit freedom of expression and information on subjects related to homo- and bisexuality,” the statement said.

Executive director Evelyne Paradis said that ILGA-Europe welcomed today’s resolution.

“This is already the second resolution of the European Parliament since 2009 condemning discriminatory legislative initiatives in Lithuania.  It clearly demonstrates and confirms a very basic principle of the European Union that the discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation is unacceptable.

“We hope that the re-occurring initiatives to adopt discriminatory laws on the ground of sexual orientation, gender identity and/or gender identity in various EU member states will result in the consistent and comprehensive EU approach tackling these forms of discrimination.

“We want to see the EU institutions act unanimously, decisively and firmly against any attempts by EU member states which compromise or violate the very principles of the European Union.

“Like on other grounds, the member states should be sent a strong signal that homophobia, transphobia and discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression do not have place in the EU and the institutions will not hesitate to act when such discriminatory initiatives occur.”

Sarah Ludford said that national and international legal opinion shows that the proposed law would break the country’s commitments under European and international law.

“It is feared that the legislation is so broad it may even cover activities such as Gay Pride or same-sex couples holding hands in public,” she pointed out.


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