Lithuanian Parliament: ready to adopt anti-gay law proposals till the end of the year?

Lithuanian Parliament: ready to adopt anti-gay law proposals till the end of the year?

Vilnius, LITHUANIA, 23 September 2010

Today, the Lithuanian parliament (Seimas) adopted its autumn agenda, preparing to debate and come to a final decision regarding the legislative amendments which would criminalize the “promotion of homosexual relations in public places.” These amendments have the potential to go into effect as early as December 2010.

“Any move by the Lithuanian parliament to criminalize the promotion of homosexuality would violate the country’s international obligations to uphold freedom of expression and fight discrimination“, Amnesty International warned last year as Lithuanian parliament accepted the submission of these legislative amendments for consideration.

This first stage of the Lithuanian legal procedure – the submission of the project – has now been completed. There are two further stages for the Lithuanian parliament to take following today’s legal actions that could put these proposed amendments into effect. The first is for the Committees and Commissions to consider and deliberate over these proposed amendments. If this stage is successful, the final step will be a final vote of the members of parliament regarding the adoption of these amendments.

The legislative amendments which would criminalise the “promotion of homosexual relations in public places” are included within a larger agenda that includes other legislative amendments, which makes this a very dangerous legal situation. With other important issues at the forefront of the autumn agenda, there is a serious risk that the Lithuanian parliament members will not dedicate enough time to the consideration of these proposed amendments in particular. Grave consequences may result from the fact that these amendments appear within the same legal block as the other amendments. Parliamentarians will have to weigh in carefully on these specific discriminatory amendments, and consider them separately and fairly, in order to keep them from passing with other amendments included in this legal block.

The two legislative amendments that descriminate against homosexuals that are up for consideration include:
• A new Article 310(1) in the Penal Code entitled “Promotion of homosexual relations in public places,” which states that “a person promoting homosexual relations in public places is committing a criminal offense which is punishable with community work or a fine or imprisonment.” The offence can also be committed by legal persons.
• A new Article 214(30) in the Administrative Code, entitled “Promotion of homosexual relations or financing of promotion in public places,” which states that “the promotion of homosexual relations or financing of the promotion in public places is to be punished by a fine from one thousand to five thousand litas.”

If these amendments are ultimately adopted, the Lithuanian government will have the authority to prosecute on an extremely wide variety of actions and activities. These actions include, but are not limited to, campaigning on human rights issues relating to sexual orientation and gender identity, providing sexual health information to LGBT people or the organization of gay film festivals, and organizing and/or attending Pride events.

“We are deeply concerned that the proposed amendments to the Criminal and the Administrative Codes will violate the human rights of freedom of expression and assembly, and will heighten the levels of inequality and discrimination of LGBT people in Lithuania.” – said Vladimir Simonko, Chairman of the Lithuanian Gay League (LGL).

“The consideration of these proposed ammendments exemplifies the continuous process of the institutionalization of homophobia in Lithuania. It first began with the discriminatory Law on the Protection of Minors against the Detrimental Effect of Public Information, legally adopted in March this year. We had to struggle for our right to hold a peaceful Pride event this past May following this legal action, as Prosecutor General and 53 parliamentarians turned to the court to ban the event. Unfortunately, these new amendments go even further, as they would criminalize almost any public expression or dissemination of information about homosexuality. Instead of moving forward to protect and ensure human rights and equality for all, the Lithuanian government is ready and willing to violate its international obligations and to go back to the year 1993, when homosexual activities were considered criminal conduct“ – Vladimir Simonko added.

“It is hard to believe that a member of the European Union should even be considering the adoption of such legislation”, said Nicola Duckworth, Europe and Central Asia Programme Director, Amnesty International, last year.