Arsonists target Lithuania’s only LGBT rights group in ‘vicious homophobic attack’

The office of the Lithuanian Gay League (LGL) – the country’s only non-governmental organisation representing LGBT+ people – has reportedly been targeted in an arson attack.

The incident allegedly took place in Pylimo in the Old Town of Vilnius, Lithuania’s capital, at about 4am on Friday morning.

The front door and door blinds of the organisation’s office were set on fire, according to LGL.

LGL said that a passing taxi driver stopped to put the fire out.

The group described the incident as a “vicious homophobic attack,” adding: “LGL believe that the incident was motivated by hate towards the local LGBT community and organisation which represents their interests.”

“This incident clearly indicates that hate crimes on the ground of sexual orientation and gender identity remain an important issue in Lithuania,” said LGL’s executive director Vladimir Simonko in a statement released to PinkNews.

“It is disapointing [sic] to see that such horrific crimes still take place in 2018 in the heart of our beautiful capital Vilnius.

“We would like to kindly thank the taxi driver who took the initiative to extinguish the fire and saved our offices from more major damages. We hope that the true motives of the incident will be duly clarified.”

PinkNews has contacted Vilnius’ police department for comment.

Founded in 1993, the LGL works for the progression of LGBT+ rights for people in the country.

Lithuania has a generally poor record on LGBT+ rights.

Although homosexuality was decriminalised in 1993, civil partnerships and equal marriage remain illegal in the country, and there are widespread socially negative attitudes towards sexuality and gender.

Lithuanian Gay League released photos of the damage on social media. (LGL/Facebook)

Same-sex adoption is also effectively illegal in the couple as, generally, parents must be married in order to adopt a child.

Discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation was made illegal in 2005.

It is also difficult to legally change gender in Lithuania, which is normally only permitted following a court ruling and after surgery.

However, a European Court of Human Rights decision in April 2017 has meant that two trans men in Lithuania were allowed by the country’s courts to legally change their gender prior to having surgery.

The country’s LGBT+ groups are calling on the government to scrap the requirement for trans people to have gender reassignment surgery before they can change their gender on official documents.

Lithuania’s government has also taken some steps to show support for LGBT+ people in the country.

In May 2017, the country’s parliament marked International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia by lighting up Vilnius’City Hall in rainbow colours and hosting an exhbition with LGBT+ artists.

The first gay pride parade in the country took place in Vilnius in 2010.