LGL Board Chair Faces Crowd of Fifteen Thousand: “Music Makes Everyone Equal”

On January 30th, 2015 the Board Chair of the national LGBT* rights association LGL Vladimir Simonko was invited to present the ‘Band of the Year’ award in the course of the Lithuanian Music Awards “M.A.M.A.” Despite the fact that Mr. Simonko was not warmly welcomed by some members in the audience, the appearance of the LGBT* human rights defender in a large-scale public event received support and encouragement from the representatives of the local music industry and from other public figures. The video footage of Mr. Simonko’s appearance in “M.A.M.A.” Awards can be seen here.

As Mr. Simonko appeared on the stage of the largest sports arena in the country, the leader of the national LGBT rights association was booed by the crowd of fifteen thousand plus. Despite the fact that dissatisfaction from the audience continued, Mr. Simonko proceeded with the presentation of the award for the ‘Band of the Year’. The award was won by a popular duo Leon Somov & Jazzu. After publicly embracing the LGL’s Board Chair, Jazzu declared that the booing was “distasteful” and wished everyone more tolerance towards each other.

After the incident, the appearance of the LGBT* human rights defender on the stage of “M.A.M.A.” Awards was widely discussed in the media and social networks. Despite some negative comments, number of public speakers expressed their solidarity with Mr. Simonko in particular and with the broader LGBT* movement in general. A well-known TV presenter and an author of best-selling cook books Beata Nicholson publicly stated that she was “ashamed” of the crowd’s reaction. A famous music critic for one of the biggest newspapers Ramūnas Zilnys referred to the incident as openly homophobic. Number of other music artists and public speakers expressed their solidarity through public statements or messages in social networks.

The staff, Board Members and volunteers of the national LGBT* rights association LGL express their solidarity and support to Mr. Simonko. We welcome dedication and encouragement of our leader to mainstream LGBT* issues in the public discourse. No one deserves to be publicly booed just because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. In our hearts and minds we stood beside our leader in front of the crowd of fifteen thousand plus that night. The voices of support that we have received afterwards tells us: we are in the right way. As rightfully pointed out by the award winning artist Jazzu, “Music Makes Everyone Equal”. Thank you!