The Lithuanian parliament, the Seimas, will vote today on whether to remove sexual orientation, age and disability from a new draft law on equal opportunities.

Several articles of the proposed legislation had conformed the European Union anti-discrimination policy, which covers those three groups, but was amended last week.

If it passes, it could mean that gays in Lithuania could be paid less or fired from their jobs due to their sexual orientation.

This will affect all people living or working or visiting the small Baltic state and could open a flood gate of discrimination in access to good and services.

The proposed law not only takes the country back ten years, but also comes into direct conflict with a European Council Directive which states that disability, age or sexual orientation must be covered.

The European Parliament’s Intergroup on Gay an Lesbian rights has called upon Lithuania to respect all its citizens equally and keep the protection against discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation.

“I must warn Lithuania, that sanctions will follow, if the effective redress stipulated in Directive 2000/78/EC is not guaranteed”, said Michael Cashman, President of the Intergroup.

“This act by Seimas will also send a negative signal to the world that Lithuania is a country of intolerance. Vilnius will be The European Capital of Culture of 2009. It must welcome and protect all our citizens not just from the EU, but from around the world. I urge the Lithuanian politicians to do the right thing.”

This is not the first time the Catholic dominated country has shown its homophobic side.

In May last year, Lithuania faced criticisms from human rights group Amnesty International and the EU when Mayor Juozas Imbrasas refused to allow EU-sponsored anti-discrimination trucks into the capital Vilnius.

Gay rights marches are effectively banned for “public order” reasons.