One More Attempt to Legalize Hate Speech in Lithuania

On December 16th, 2014 the Parliamentary Committee on Education, Science and Culture postponed the adoption of the controversial amendment to the Lithuanian Criminal Code, removing criminal liability for homophobic hate speech. 5 members of the Committee were in favor of the proposed amendment, 3 voted against, while the others abstained. This outcome was sufficient for reaching unanimous conclusion among the members of the Committee that the draft bill should be returned to its drafter for the improvement.

According to the information, provided by human rights NGOs, the MPs Valentinas Stundys (‘Homeland Union’), Vytautas Juozapaitis (‘Homeland Union’), Arimantas Dumčius (‘Homeland Union’) Algirdas Vaclovas Patackas (‘The Way of Courage’, the drafter of the bill) and Rima Baškienė (non-affiliated) were supporting the bill legitimizing hate speech against LGBT* individuals. MP Vytautas Juozapaitis compared sexual orientation to zoophilia and claimed that there is nothing wrong in calling someone a ‘pervert’. The Advisor of the Inspector of Journalist Ethics[1] Deividas Velkas emphasized that prohibition of inciting hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation is dangerous, because it might result in a complaint against the Bible.

The MPs Marija Aušrinė Pavilionienė (‘Social Democrats’), Giedrė Purvaneckienė (‘Social Democrats’) and Gintaras Steponavičius (‘Liberal Movement’) voted against the controversial proposal, while the members of the ‘Labor Party’ political group abstained. The representative from the European Law Department under the Ministry of Justice concluded that the bill (if adopted) would legalize discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation.

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, humiliation, incitement to hatred, discrimination or incitement to discriminate.” The amendment was initiated by the MP Algridas Patackas and the Lithuanian Parliament Seimas placed the amendment on the parliamentary agenda on September 12th, 2013. On November 13th, 2013 the Lithuanian Government issued the negative opinion on the proposed legislation. On July 19th, 2014 the Lithuanian Parliament dismissed the negative opinion on the proposal by the Committee on Legal Affairs and further referred the proposal to the Committee on Education, Science and Culture.

The national LGBT* rights association LGL welcomes the decision by the Committee on Education, Science and Culture. However, it has to be emphasized that the comments made by certain members of the Committee in the course of considering this clearly homophobic bill are very hurtful and humiliating for the local LGBT* community. The association LGL hopes that the Members of the Lithuanian Parliament will continue to emphasize and publicly express their commitment for human rights for all the citizens of the Republic of Lithuania regardless sexual orientation or gender identity.

As previously reported by the association 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 of adoption 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.

In November, 2014 the representatives of LGL met with the Deputy Speaker of Seimas Gediminas Kirkilas in order to discuss these negative developments in the Lithuanian Parliament. The Deputy Speaker assured LGL that he would seek active assistance from his colleagues in the Parliament with the view of blocking these homophobic and transphobic legislative initiatives. It is believed that the currently postponed adoption of the amendment to the Criminal Code, removing criminal liability for homophobic hate speech, was an indirect outcome of the LGL’s meeting with the MP Kirkilas.

[1]On September 24th, 2014 the Inspector of Journalist Ethics banned the LGL‘s social video ‘CHANGE IT!’ as potentially having a detrimental effect on the minors; that was the third time in a period of two years when the ‘homosexual propaganda’ law in Lithuania was applied to censor the LGBT*-related information.