Gay discrimination law passes Lithuanian parliament

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Discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation has been included in a new Law on Equal Treatment passed by the Lithuanian parliament.

However, “educational and training institutions of religious communities” will be exempted from the legislation.

MPs had removed age, disability, and sexual orientation protections from the new draft law on equal opportunities.

Egidijus Klumbys, a rightwing MP, had argued that the country’s constitution, which does mention sex, race, nationality, language, origin, social status, religion, convictions, or opinions but not sexual orientation, should be the template for the new law.

Several articles of the new legislation, which requires equal treatment in the provision of goods and services, conform to the European Union anti-discrimination policy.

On Tuesday MPs voted in favour of new wording of the law that again covered discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.

The European Parliament’s Intergroup on Gay and Lesbian rights had called upon Lithuania to respect all its citizens equally and keep the protection against discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation.

“I must warn Lithuania that sanctions will follow if the effective redress stipulated in Directive 2000/78/EC is not guaranteed,” Michael Cashman, President of the Intergroup, said last week.

Directive 2000/78/EC instructs governments to ensure that people complaining of discriminatory behaviour in their respect based on their age, disability and sexual orientation should have the right to get support and be represented by relevant trade unions or expert organisations or associations.

The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe has previously drawn attention to the situation in Lithuania, where sexual minorities are barred from holding Pride marches by the authorities in the capital Vilnius.

In April the Council formally expressed concern over the situation in the country for the first time since it broke from the Soviet Union and became a free nation once again.

Twice last year gay activists were banned from displaying the rainbow flag, an international symbol of gay rights.

The Lithuanian Gay League is to appeal these rulings in court.

In May 2007 the Mayor of Vilnius refused to give permission for an anti-discrimination truck tour to visit the city.

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

A large majority of the Lithuanian population are Roman Catholics, and the church is openly hostile the rights of sexual minorities.

A law banning discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment was passed in 2004, as an obligation for acceptance into the European Union.

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