Lithuanian Court labels a same-sex kiss as “eccentric behavior”

On January 28, 2015 the District Court of Klaipėda City passed an order to dismiss a formal complaint about hateful online comments regarding a same-sex kiss picture by two students, filed by the national LGBT* rights organization LGL. As stated in the court order, a person who posts a same-sex kiss photo in a public “Facebook” profile “has to anticipate that such an eccentric act would clearly discourage the common understanding and tolerance amongst people in our society who have different views and opinions”. LGL will appeal the ruling of the Court to the District Court of Klaipėda Region.

On December 12, 2014 LGL submitted a complaint to the Prosecutor General’s Office of the Republic of Lithuania informing them that the upload of the aforementioned photo was followed by public comments that incited hatred, mockery, humiliation, discrimination, as well as the use of physical force against persons based on sexual orientation. In its complaint to the Office, LGL emphasized that some comments constituted offensive public information that encouraged to discriminate and physically assault gay people and, therefore, violated the Criminal Code of the Republic of Lithuania and the Law on Provision of Information to the Public of the Republic of Lithuania.

The Board Chair of LGL Vladimir Simonko stresses that the comments posted following the photo incite hatred, discrimination and violence against a group of people: “The use of certain terms (“burn”, “destroy”, “smash their heads”) demonstrates a particular bias against homosexual orientation and clearly expressed promotion of brutality.”

The Prosecutor General’s Office passed LGL’s complaint to Klaipėda Regional Prosecutor’s Office. Prosecutor Simonas Genys refused to initiate a pre-trial investigation stating that “no indications of a crime were detected since commentators did not provoke against homosexual people”. According to the Prosecutor, the commentators “used inappropriate words to express disapproval to homosexual relationships. However, the use of swear words is not a basis for criminal responsibility”. The comments were not investigated as a whole, since they were posted by unique 29 internet users.

The District Court of Klaipėda City affirmed the Prosecutor’s conclusion ruling that “a person who publishes private information on a social network, practices the freedom of expression, has to take into account the fact that freedom is inseparable from the obligation to respect other people’s beliefs and traditions”. The pre-litigation investigative Judge Rasa Stonkuvienė concluded that “the general public especially treasure traditional family values, also enshrined in the Constitution.

“I have not seen such a massive attack on LGBT* people on the internet for a long time” – said the Board Chair of LGL Vladimir Simonko in an interview to Lithuanian news portal Mr. Simonko acknowledged that “Facebook” is not the safest space to open up about oneself. However, he complimented the courage of the young men to publicly come out – it significantly contributes to the promotion of tolerance.

The national LGBT* rights organization LGL reminds that online comments inciting hatred on the basis of sex, sexual orientation,  race, nationality, ethnic origin, language, social status, religion, beliefs or opinions, are punishable under the criminal law. LGL encourages the victims of hate speech or hate crimes to report the incidents to the law enforcement officials or to fill in the LGL’s anonymous hate crime reporting form.