A poll of members of the Lithuanian parliament has revealed that over half of them agree that homosexuality is a perversion.

The survey reflected a deeply ingrained homophobia in Lithuanian society. Homosexual sex was legalised in Lithuania in 1993.

Lithuania joined the EU in 2004. That year the age of consent for homosexual sex was lowered from 18 to 14 to bring it in line with the age of consent for heterosexual sex.

When asked: “Do you support the position of the Lithuanian Catholic Church, that homosexuality is a perversion?” 89 out of 141 members of parliament (Seimas) answered yes.

Petras Grazulis has been an independent MP since 1996.

He responded: “I support the position of the Church, there is no doubt about it. These people are indeed sick and perverted. They pose a threat to society because they molest children.”

Dangute Mikutiene is a Labour Party MP and deputy chairman of the committee on health affairs.

She said: “I support the position of the Church because family is a fundamental value of religion and the state. Homosexuality is an illness. Of course, we should not punish those people because they are afflicted with a mental disability.”

There are laws in place in Lithuania to protect gay people from being discriminated against in the workplace, but critics say these laws were only put into place to ensure Lithuania entrance into the EU.

Many of the MPs who agreed with the Church validated their beliefs by asserting that homosexuality is either an illness or a mental disability.

Social Democratic MP Vilija Verteliene said: “As a doctor, I think that this is a disease.”

The World Health Organisation removed homosexuality from its list of diseases in 1990.

A poll last December found that only 17% of Lithuanians support gay marriage.