Lithuania’s MEPs do not see a problem with limiting the freedom of speech and expression of LGBT* people

Following a submission to the European Commission by the national LGBT* organization LGL, the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee of the European Parliament is preparing to discuss the ‘homosexual propaganda’ legislation in Lithuania, reports Lithuanian news agency BNS. Lithuania’s representatives in the European Parliament, however, claim that they do not see a problem with limiting the LGBT* community’s right to freedom of speech and freedom of expression in Lithuania.

“It is clear that families differing from the traditional model established in our Constitution must not be promoted. God created the world, man and woman, and that is how it must be. If someone believes otherwise, let him believe it, but this unsound belief does not have to be included in legislation,” argued Committee member of the Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania (EAPL) Valdemaras Tomaševskis.

“Truthfully, I do not see anything wrong in that law. It is consistent with our laws and Constitution. I do not believe that [the law] is discriminatory. If we are speaking about marriage, it is natural in Lithuania for marriage between a man and a woman to constitute a family,” alleged Vilija Blinkevičiūte, substitute Committee member of the Social Democratic party of Lithuania.

The European Commission (EC) is working with Vilnius in order to assess whether the restrictions of positive information on LGBT* issue are in line with the EU acquis. The Lithuanian Law on the Protection of Minors against the Detrimental Effect of Public Information classifies any information which “denigrates family values” or “encourages a concept of marriage and family other than the one stipulated in the Constitution or in the Civil Code” as detrimental to the minors.

A group of MEPs is appealing to the European Commission, alleging that this law prohibits information relating to LGBT* people from being displayed in places accessible to minors. MEPs also note that television networks based their refusal to broadcast LGL’s social video clip about LGBT* people on the grounds of these legal provisions.

The European Commission responded by indicating that it is “communicating with Lithuanian authorities in order to clarify whether the law is compatible with the Audiovisual Resource Directive,” which allows for the restriction only of information that can “seriously harm the physical, mental or moral development of minors.”

The disproportionate interference with the freedom of speech and expression of LGBT* groups in Lithuania was condemned by both the Lithuanian Psychological Association and the international human rights organizations Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and ILGA-Europe. On November 25th, 2014 the Lithuanian Psychological Association issued a statement indicating that LGL’s video has “no content that would be scientifically proven to have a negative impact on the emotional, spiritual and psychological development and health of minors.” On the contrary, the association claimed that the prohibition to discuss LGBT* issues in the public is contrary to the best interests of the child, as it limits their right to information.

The national LGBT* rights organization LGL applied before the European Commission (EC) under the European Union (EU) directive infringement procedure on October 25th, 2014. A formal complaint, prepared in collaboration with the European LGBTI organization ILGA-Europe, indicated that the Lithuanian authorities had violated the EU founding Treaty, the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and the Audiovisual Media Services Directive (AVMSD) while disproportionately limiting the LGBT* community’s right to freedom of speech and freedom of expression. This right is guaranteed to every European citizen, regardless of, inter alia, sexual orientation, and the protection of minors cannot constitute a disproportionate interference with this right.

The national LGBT* rights organization LGL expresses its grave concern regarding the remarks made by Lithuania’s representatives in the European Parliament Mr. Tomaševskis and Ms. Blinkevičiūtė, as these statements stand in a clear contrast with the European Parliament’s mission in respecting, protecting and promoting the rights to freedom of opinion and expression of every European citizen.