The mayor of the Lithuanian capital has come out in support of trolley bus drivers protesting against advertisements promoting tolerance towards gay men and women.

Drivers refused to drive the trolley buses bearing the adverts, which have now been removed.

Yesterday the mayor of Vilnius Juozas Imbrasas backed the drivers.

“We tolerate people of any kind of sexual orientation, nevertheless with priority for traditional family and seeking to promote the family values, we disapprove the public display of homosexualists’ ideas in the city of Vilnius,” he said.

Conservative attitudes are common in Lithuania, as homosexuality was illegal in the Soviet Union until 1993.

In 2004, the age of consent was equalised to 14 years of age.

Algirdas Krivickas, director of the trolley bus company in the town of Kaunas, told Reuters that employees had expressed strong emotions over the adverts which read:

“A gay can serve in the police” and “A lesbian can work at school.”

“Some said they feared the trolley bus could be vandalised, some said they do not want friends to laugh at them,” Krivickas said.

Lithuania created a law banning discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment in 2004, as an obligation for acceptance into the European Union.

Vladimir Simonko, president of the Lithuanian Gay League, which ordered the adverts, said the aim was to encourage discussion.

He told Reuters: “It is a sad situation. Such attitudes force homosexual people to emigrate from Lithuania.”

Later this year, Lithuania will become home to the European Institute for Gender Equality.

Earlier this year, PinkNews.co.uk reported how over half of Lithuanian MPs believe homosexuality to be a perversion.

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