The proposal to remove criminal liability for homophobic hate speech survives one more vote in the Lithuanian Parliament

On 19 June 2014 the Lithuanian Parliament Seimas refused to drop the controversial amendment to the Criminal Code, which would remove criminal liability for homophobic hate speech. 18 MPs voted in favor of considering this amendment further while 11 MPs abstained (29 MPs in total), thus outnumbering 25 MPs who voted against the proposal. According to the Statute of the Parliament, the controversial amendment now will be considered by the second parliamentary committee. According to the vote in the plenary, the most suitable committee for considering this amendment will be the  Committee on Education, Science and Culture.

The proposed amendment to the Criminal Code states that the “criticism of sexual behavior or sexual practices, convictions or believes, or persuasion to change this behavior, practices, convictions or believes cannot be per se qualified as harassment, denigration, incitement to hatred, discrimination or incitement to discrimination.” The amendment was initiated by the MP Algridas Patackas and the Lithuanian Parliament Seimas placed the amendment on the parliamentary agenda on 12 September 2013. On 13 November 2013 the Lithuanian Government issued the negative opinion on the proposed legislation. The amendment was further considered by the Committee on Legal Affairs.

The Committee on Legal Affairs rejected the proposed amendment as violating the constitutional principle of equality before the law. The concluding observations by the Committee also quote the judgment by the European Court of Human Rights in the case Vejdeland vs. Sweden, emphasizing  that discrimination based on sexual orientation is as serious as discrimination based on race, origin or colour.”

However, the concluding observations by the Committee on Legal Affairs were not convincing enough for the Lithuanian MPs. The controversial proposal was “saved” in the plenary by 18 MPs voting in favor, 11 MPs abstaining and 25 MPs voting against the proposal.

According to the LGL Chair Vladimir Simonko, this vote clearly indicated the commitment by the Lithuanian Parliament to move forward with highly questionable agenda in the field of human rights for LGBT* people. “This legislative proposal provides legal protection for incitement to hatred on the grounds of sexual orientations. Our politicians fail to realize that hateful speech leads to homophobic and transphobic violence.” – says Mr. Simonko.

As previously reported by the LGL, the Lithuanian Parliament is currently considering 7 homophobic and transphobic legislative proposals: total ban on gender reassignment surgeries, introduction of administrative sanctions for “denigration of constitutional family values”, prohibition to adopt for same-sex couples (two separate proposals), amendment to Law on Public Meetings imposing requirement for organizers to cover the security costs, the Constitutional amendment establishing that family life emanates only from a marriage between a man and a woman and, finally, the removal of criminal liability for hate speech.