Lithuanian Anti Gay Law Puts New President in Impossible Position

Liberal Group in Seimas plan challenge in Constutional Court



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■ Lithuanian President, Dalia Grybauskaitė:  Impossible situation
Official photo from Presidential Palace


Within days of taking office, Lithuania’s new President, Dalia Grybauskaitė, finds herself in an impossible situation over the draconic new law passed by the country’s Seimas yesterday – Law on the Protection of Minors Against the Detrimental Effect of Public Information.

The legislation was originally passed last month, but it was vetoed by former President Valdas Adamkus.  The matter, under the Lithuanian constitution, was returned to the Seimas and was again passed, with some alterations which strengthened its “anti-gay” aspect.

This means that President Grybauskaitė, the former European Commissioner for Financial Programming and the Budget, has to approve it within three days – the same number of days she has been President.  She has no choice.  The constitution says she must.

It is known that she disapproves of the law – she is even on the record as saying she will never sign a law which breached fundamental human rights.

Last week, in an interview with the newspaper Verslo Zinios, she said of the law: “In my opinion, this law contains homophobic provisions. There cannot be any ‘higher’ reason which would aim to overshadow fundamental human rights. I promise that I will never sign any law which will contradict fundamental human rights.”

Speaking from Strasbourg, Michael Cashman MEP, the president of the European Parliament’s all-party Intergoup for gay and lesbian rights told UK Gay New thnat the President “should uphold the conventions which Lithuania has signed up to especially relating to Human Rights and say out loud that she refuses to sign this discriminatory law.”

It is understood that the Liberals Movement group in the Seimas is challenging the new law in the Lithuanian Constitutional Court.

This move has this morning been welcomed by the Lithuanian Gay League (LGL).

“These heavy homophobia driven laws codify discrimination based on sexual orientation, deny freedom of expression, and inhibit LGBT persons’ rights to education, information and every day life,” LGL chairperson Vladimir Simonko said, adding that there was both fear and panic ove next yeaar’s Baltic Pride which is due to be staged in Vilnius between May 7 to 9.

“[This is a] clear violation of international and European human rights law to which Lithuania is a party”.

Condemnation of the Law on the Protection of Minors Against the Detrimental Effect of Public Information has been widespread, not only for its homophobia, but also for its effect on the Luithuanian media which will have an impossible task to comply.

Dainius Radzevicius, who chairs the Lithuanian Journalists Union, told The Associated Press: “This is absurd.  I cannot even imagine how they will implement this law.”

In London, Amnesty International called on the Lithuanian government to uphold its international human rights obligations and repeal the discriminatory.  The call came withing hours of the vote in the Seimas.

“This is a very bad day for LGBT rights in Lithuania,” said Amnesty LGBT campaigner Kim Manning-Cooper.  “By adopting this deeply homophobic legislation, the Lithuanian authorities have taken a huge step backwards.

“This law is a clear infringement of freedom of expression and non-discrimination rights and should be repealed immediately.”

Amnesty also called on the Lithuanian government to:

● Ensure that all persons in Lithuania, including children, fully enjoy the right to freedom of expression – including the right to seek, receive and impart information;

● Prohibit any discrimination and guarantee to all persons equal and effective protection against discrimination, including discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity;

● Provide adequate and non-discriminatory information and support to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender young people.

Also in London, Stonewall likened the Lithuanian law to ‘Section 28’ in the UK.

“By stigmatising gay people as it did, Section 28 did significant and lasting damage to countless thousands of young people in this country,” said chief executive Ben Summerskill.  “It is deeply worrying that a similar tragedy is being perpetrated in Lithuania in 2009.”

Far from protecting children, the Lithuanian law deprives young people of their right to freedom of expression and access to information and risks isolating children who are already amongst the most at risk of violence at school or within the family, Amnesty points out.

The internationally recognised human rights group is right to say that it is “seriously concerned” that the new law will institutionalise homophobia and could be used to prohibit any legitimate discussion of homosexuality, impede the work of human rights defenders and further the stigmatisation of and prejudice against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

Radio Sweden International is reporting that Swedish Equality minister Nyamko Sabuni has called the new Lithuanian law “worrying”.

In a statement to Radio Sweden, she said that Sweden prioritises freedom of speech and equal rights, and says that in an age when most countries are strengthening the rights of the LGBT community, it’s both sad and worrying when a country goes in the opposite direction.

Also in Sweden, condemnation of the law has come from the Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights (RFSL) which warned today that the law “could lead to the censorship of organizations, schools, and media, ultimately isolating homosexuals in Lithuania”.

The International Gay and Lesbian Youth Organisation joined with other national and international youth groups to express “outrage” at the law.

In a joint statement this afternoon, the group said that they “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.

In New York, the new Lithuanian law was also condemned by the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC).

“Lithuania has taken a huge step backward for human rights by enacting this law,” IGLHRC executive director Cary Alan Johnson said today.  “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.”


Seimas Overturns Presidential Veto of Legislation Banning ‘Gay Propaganda’.  The Lithuanian Seimas (Parliament) this morning voted to overturn the Presidential veto on the controversial Law on the Protection of Minors Against the Detrimental Effect of Public Information.  Deputies voted 87 to six – with 25 abstentions – to over-rule the President.  The law is expected to come into force on March 1 next year.   (UK Gay News, July 14, 2009)

Buzek Pledges Support for Rights of Gay and Transgender Men and Women – and Pride Marches.  Jerzy Buzek, the former Polish Prime Minister and now an MEP, has today pledged to defend the rights of gay and transgendered men and women.  (UK Gay News, July 13, 2009)

Anti-Gay Law Is Vetoed by Lithuanian President.  The President of Lithuania, Valdas Adamkus, has vetoed the proposed new law which was approved last week by the Seimas (Parliament).  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”.  (UK Gay News, June 26, 2009)

MEPs and NGOs Protest Against Harmful and Anti Gay Law in Lithuania.  Members of the European Parliament’s Intergroup on gay and lesbian rights will today join other people and NGOs in a demonstration outside the Lithuanian permanent representation in Brussels to protest against new homophobic and oppressive law in Lithuania.   (UK Gay News, June 24, 2009)

Official English translation of the amended Law on the Protection of Minors against the Detrimental Effect of Public Information (Microsoft Word file)

MEPs and Amnesty Hit Out at New Legislation that Forbids Gay Issues Being Discussed in Schools Two members of the European Parliament today hit out at the amendment to the legislation passed earlier this week by the Lithuanian Seimas (Parliament).  And rthey were joined by the international human rights group, Amnesty.  (UK Gay News, June 18, 2009)

Lithuania Bans Information about Gays for Young People in Education.  The Lithuania Parliament (Seimas) has passed amended legislation that bans any positive information – or “propaganda” as it is officially called – about gays.  The measure was passed by 67 of the 74 parliamentarians voting yesterday.  (UK Gay News, June 17, 2009)





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Posted: 15 July 2009 at 08:00 (UK time)
(updated at 12:00, 15:00 and 16:00)


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