Supreme Court of Lithuania: “The Case of Censored Fairytale Book Should Be Reexamined”

Neringa Dangvydė, the author of the fairytale book Amber Heart, has secured her first victory: the court will have to reexamine whether fairytales depicting homosexual characters should be considered as “harmful to minors”. The Supreme Court of Lithuania revoked previous decisions by the Vilnius County Court and Vilnius City District Court and returned the case for reexamination.

The case that reached the Supreme Court started back in early 2014. Lithuanian University of Educational Sciences published fairytale book Amber Heart but later suspended its distribution after publicly denouncing the book as “purposeful homosexual propaganda.” Later that year, the Office of the Office of the Inspector of Journalist Ethics concluded that fables contained in the book were “harmful for children younger than 14 year” and were “promoting a family concept different from the one established in the Lithuanian Constitution”.

After Neringa Dangvydė went to the court, the Lithuanian University of Educational Sciences claimed to have no obligations to distribute the book because they themselves published it, even though the publishing deal was won through a public contest and included financial support from the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Lithuania. However, the university eventually agreed to renew the distribution of the book under the label N-14 (i.e. material inappropriate for children under 14). Ms. Dangvydė argued that the label offended her as an expert of children’s literature.

After analyzing the case, the Supreme Court noted that lower courts should have assessed whether the fables in Ms. Dangvydės’s book Amber Heart promoted “marriage and family concept different from the one established in the Constitution and the Civil Code” or whether it only “promoted tolerance towards people of different sexual orientations”.

A three-judge panel noted that lower courts did not provide sufficient reasons for reluctance to examine Ms. Dangvydė’s claims that the distribution of her book was motivated by discrimination based on sexual orientation. The Court also denounced lower courts’ inability to examine the content of the book, reliance on the conclusions by the Office of the Inspector of Journalist Ethics and inability to assess proportionality of adopted restrictions.

“My book contains both happy heterosexual and happy same-sex families. So it’s rather an affirmation of tolerance towards people of different sexual orientations and demonstration that responsibility, respect for one another and loyalty are values shared by all,” commented the writer after the Supreme Court’s judgment.

“When the appellate court will be examining the returned case, it will have to investigate whether there were sufficient grounds to limit the distribution of the book Amber Heart, whether the restrictions chosen by the publisher were proportional and whether the publisher didn’t discriminate the author by suspending the distribution of the book,” said the lawyer Akvilė Bužinskaitė, who prepared the lawsuit together with other lawyers from various nongovernmental organizations.

After the current decision by the Supreme Court of Lithuania, the case will be returned to the Vilnius City District Court, where it will await its final decision.