Lithuanian authorities use security to ban gay events

PinkNews logo with white background and rainbow corners

New rules passed by the city council in Vilnius will effectively outlaw gay marches and other events, according to Lithuanian gay rights advocates.

Amendments to the public order and cleanliness regulations mean that the police or a special commission will be able to ban any event where they think a riot might occur.

The Lithuanian Gay League is attempting to appeal this decision in court.

“It will be useless to apply for permission to hold our events for the next 10 years, because we won’t get approved,” league chairman Vladimiras Simonko told Lietuvos Rytas.

“Assurance of security during these events is not our responsibility. We pay taxes, and laws obligate the authorities to ensure our security during our events,” he said.

Mr Simonko pointed out that football matches carry a high risk of violence and asked if they will be subject to the ban.

Vilnius Municipality Public Order Department will collect data from the police, the internet and the media and consider objections from members of the public, then decide on whether any event should be granted a permit.

The department claims all events and not just gay ones will be assessed using this system and that no rights are being restricted as events may be held in “a proper and safe place.”

Twice this year gay activists have been banned from displaying the rainbow flag, an international symbol of gay rights. The Lithuanian Gay League is to appeal these rulings in court.

The council’s decision is the latest of many homophobic incidents in the Baltic state in the past few months.

In May the mayor of Vilnius refused to give permission for the anti-discrimination truck tour to visit the city.

The truck is part of the European Year of Equal Opportunities for All campaign, but mayor Juozas Imbrasas claimed it could cause a security risk and riots.

Anti-gay feeling reached new heights later that month after a Swedish ambassador called for tolerance towards LGBT people.

Ambassador Malin Karre delivered a speech to the Lithuanian Parliament on Wednesday May 16th to commemorate the International Day Against Homophobia.

Activists protested her comments outside the Swedish embassy in Vilnius.

Conservative attitudes are common in Lithuania, as homosexuality was illegal in the Soviet Union until 1993.

Lithuania created a law banning discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment in 2004, as an obligation for acceptance into the European Union.

Earlier this year, reported that more than half of Lithuanian MPs believe homosexuality to be a perversion.

A poll last December found that only 17% of Lithuanians support gay marriage.

In September a Lithuanian transsexual won a case at the European Court of Human Rights over claims that he has been blocked from completing his gender transition.

The seven judges also ruled that Lithuania must implement new legislation on gender reassignment within three months or pay damages.

Last month a gay rights group launched a legal challenge after one of the events at its annual conference was banned by the authorities in Lithuania.

ILGA Europe members gathered for their conference in Vilnius, but their public Rainbow Flag event was blocked by the city’s mayor.

ILGA Europe chose to meet in Lithuania to highlight the prejudice gay people face in the country, formerly part of the Soviet Union.