MEP A. Guoga: “Deliver Lithuania from Fear”

I’m happy about the success of Lithuania’s performance on the 21st of May, 2015. I returned from Strasbourg to Brussels in time to watch the duo’s Eurovision performance together with all of Lithuania. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to vote from Belgium, but I definitely did during the finals.

However, the joy of making it into the finals was overshadowed by the usual stream of hateful, homophobic comments. I decided to share Vaidas Baumila’s interview on my social media page because we shouldn’t have hate in our country. He says: “The world is full of different types of people, different races, different loves, different sexualities, and to hate something is just to place a stamp of misunderstanding and fear upon yourself. And who can live in fear? We’re not trying to impress Europe. We are just trying to show that Lithuania is taking a step forward in terms of its culture, which is finally learning to accept people and understand that everyone is equal.”

Unfortunately, Lithuania tends to suffer from too much hate and too many irrational fears and exaggerated reactions to human relationships that were denied during the Soviet era. We are afraid of modern armies and more flexible labor relations. We live in fear of what others may think. Not believing in ourselves, we taunt others, banishing those who have done nothing wrong.

But Lithuania can’t afford the luxury of sitting back and letting a few angry people dictate which citizens are better than others. A million people have already left the country. If we don’t stop this bullying now, we run the risk of losing even more talented, wise scholars, energetic leaders, promising athletes, and other professionals who are necessary for national progress.

It has been long understood in the civilized world that we all differ in our views and characteristics, but that everyone is equal before the law. In the European Parliament, I familiarized myself with a report on the rights of gay people in Lithuania. I’m ashamed that Lithuania received the low ranking of 26 on the European Union’s “Rainbow Map.”

It’s salient that today Ireland is voting on the possibility of same-sex marriage. Ireland, like Lithuania, is a Catholic country; unlike Lithuania, however, Ireland is able to speak openly, consider all of its citizens, and get its political elite to overcome its phobias. And last weekend, all of Luxembourg celebrated the wedding of Prime Minister Xavier Bettel and his loved one. Among the wedding guests were Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel and Estonian Prime Minister Taavi Roivas. In the meantime, Lithuania has been stuck in the Middle Ages, debating the question of partnership.

Okay, so at least members of Parliament from the Liberal Movement are promoting the Partnership Act, which contains no distinctions or discriminatory clauses for same-sex couples. Such legislation has already been accepted in Estonia and Latvia. I’m glad that the Social Democrats have also finally started addressing these issues. But the chance for our citizens to live safely and with dignity is largely dependent on the Conservatives’ position. Time will tell whether the party’s change in leadership will help alleviate the problem of flight from Lithuania. By the way, conservatives in the UK were the force that passed partnership legislation that included same-sex couples. It’s necessary for the Lithuanian government to include provisions regarding registered partnerships for same-sex couples when considering the Partnership Act on the 27th of May, 2015.

I live in a traditional family, but that doesn’t prevent me from understanding that other people’s love doesn’t need to fit into my personal framework. I want the people of Lithuania to feel like fully valued citizens, regardless of their labels. And I hope that it’s not just a handful of politicians and public figures that agree. We must make sure that it’s clear to everyone that we must fight for ALL of our citizens, and neither hide nor force them to hide. We have to keep ALL of our talent to create a prosperous Lithuania.

Member of the European Parliament Antanas Guoga