By Cathy Kristofferson, July 05, 2013
Today, the Lithuanian Gay League (LGL) won another step in their struggle for Baltic Pride 2013. The Vilnius Regional Administrative court directed municipal leaders to allow LGL their right to march on the city’s main avenue. This judgement is the latest move in an ongoing months-long battle to hold Pride events in the country’s capital of Vilnius.
Today’s decision was the result of an appeal brought by LGL when last week at a meeting to determine the route through the Lithuanian capital the March for Equality, the Vilnius City Municipality stripped LGL of their freedom of association right and banned the march all together.
City officials claim that LGL’s desire to hold their march through the center of the capital will put people at risk. The officials are willing to permit the march in the outskirts but LGL does not want to accept second-class status believing they should be able to hold their march where other marches and demonstrations often take place.
UK MP Jean Lambert today called for intervention from the Lithuanian government regarding the banned event. July 1st Lithuania became the new holder of the rotating EU presidency and Ms. Lambert believes that:
“If the Lithuanian government wants to be taken seriously during its presidency of the EU it must show its commitment to the values of the union and intervene to make sure Baltic Pride 2013 goes ahead.”
Baltic Pride first took place in Lithuania in 2010 with a couple hundred revelers and a thousand opponents. Ensuing Baltic Prides have taken place in Estonia and Latvia. Each year the Pride Events have struggled with court battles and violence from opponents. The legal battle to hold this year’s Baltic Pride March has been going on for months and has reached as high as the Lithuanian Supreme Court.
A battle during which a group of Lithuanian MPs proposed a Penal Code amendment stipulating that criticism of homosexuality and claims that homosexuals should change their sexual orientation be not construed as discrimination or hate speech. An amendment they claimed was suggested by NGOs concerned that “criticism of or observations about sexual orientation not be identified with discrimination, mockery, incitement of hatred, offense, or smear.” Sounds like those NGOs are more worried about losing funding than human rights.
The Baltic Pride 2013 March For Equality is set for July 27. Let’s hope that the Vilnius City Municipality drops their opposition and works with LGL to set the route. If not, the Lithuanian government must step up and defend the citizens of the region.