Latvian, Estonian and Lithuanian gays and lesbians will gather in Riga next May for “Friendship Days,” a Pride celebration.

The LGBT community face considerable prejudice in the Baltic states, where the Roman Catholic church and other Christian denominations have considerable political and social influence.

In the run up to this year’s Riga Pride, Cardinal Janis Pujats said homosexuality is against the natural order and, therefore, against the laws of God, and that homosexuals also claim unlawfully to have the rights of a minority.

The event in June passed off peacefully. Police arrested four of an estimated 400 anti-gay protesters, but the threats of violence against the Pride march did not materialise.

British and Swedish human rights advocates and politicians were among the 300 people who took part in the event. City authorities closed off streets and deployed police to keep the groups apart.

The marchers were taken away in buses at the end of the event.

Linda Freimane of LGBT alliance Mozaika has confirmed that Friendship Day 2009 will take place on May 17th and May 18th.

She has invited their Baltic neighbours to join in the fun. It is thought that Friendship Days will alternate in future years between Latvian, Lithuanian and Estonian venues.

In 2006 gay campaigners were attacked with eggs and bags of excrement and left feeling under siege by protesters when they quietly celebrated Riga Pride.

Authorities in the Latvian capital had banned the gay parade on public order grounds, but activists including Outrage’s Peter Tatchell and GayRussia’s Nikolai Alexeyev decided to continue with smaller activities.

The municipal authorities in Riga said that the event should be cancelled to avoid public disorder after Christians, nationalists and neo-Nazis threatened the parade with violence and a counter march.