Vilnius Celebrated Baltic Pride 2016

On 18th June, 2016 a crowd of 3000 Lithuanian LGBT* community members and their allies participated in the March for Equality on the central avenue in the downtown of Vilnius to celebrate the Baltic Pride 2016, the most important LGBT* (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) community event in the Baltic states, organized by the National LGBT* rights organization LGL.

“Today, we are celebrating another democratic victory. For the first time in the history of Lithuania, the LGBT* community exercised its right to freedom of peaceful assembly without institutional barriers or tedious legal battles. We are developing and maturing into a society in which human rights are not just a catchphrase, but also a cause for real change. Thank you everyone for this celebration of tolerance,” commented Vladimir Simonko, the Executive Director of the National LGBT* rights organization LGL.

The March for Equality in Vilnius city centre on Saturday afternoon took place without any serious incidents. The event began with a moment of silence honoring the victims of the terrorist attack which took place in a LGBT* community space in the United States last weekend. The route of the march from Lukiškių Square to Bernardine Garden totaled in 2.3 kilometres. After the March for Equality the participants gathered in the Bernardine Garden.

“I am delighted that LGBT* community is becoming more visible in Lithuanian society. The Baltic Pride is gradually becoming not just the “gay parade”, but a reflection of the broad and diverse LGBT* community. It is fantastic that we can use this event as a platform for discussing pressing issues that are important to the local LGBT* community and the widespread incidence of bullying in our society,“ said Aliona Polujanova, the Board Member of LGL.

In addition to the members of the local LGBT* community, participants in the march included members of the European Parliament, Lithuanian and international politicians, representatives of international organizations and residents and visitors of the Vilnius city. After the March for Equality participants and friendly spectators were invited to the art factory “Loftas” for the Baltic Pride Park 2016 concert, featuring performances by legendary Eurovision Song Contest winner Dana International, world-famous French DJ Leomeo, drag queen LaDiva Live, Ukrainian performer Maria Sam Katseva, and Lithuanian performers Donny Montell, Ruslanas Kirilkinas and Sasha Song.

The Baltic Pride 2016 festival took place in Vilnius for the third time. This year the festival was used to challenge the discriminatory application of the “anti-gay propaganda”  legislation and to encourage public debate on legal recognition of same-sex relationships in Lithuania. The next Baltic Pride March for Equality will take place in Vilnius in 2019. In 2017 Baltic Pride festival will be hosted in the Estonian capital city of Tallinn.

© Augustas Didžgalvis