The European Parliament Intergroup on Lesbian and Gay Rights has written to MPs in Lithuania about new legislation that aims to criminalise ‘propagation of homosexual relations’.

Along with gay rights group ILGA-Europe, the MEPs said the proposed amendments are a severe limitation of freedom of speech and a breach of the principles of equality and non-discrimination of the European Union and the Council of Europe.

“Article 21 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union prohibits any form of discrimination, including on the grounds of sexual orientation,” they wrote.

“Article 13 of the Treaty of Amsterdam bans ‘all forms of discrimination on the grounds of gender, race or ethnic background, religion or creed, disability and sexual orientation’. The European Court of Human Rights on a number of occasions confirmed that sexual orientation discrimination is clearly in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights.”

The MEPs said freedom of expression is essential for LGBT people to argue in favour of ending discrimination in the content and application of the law.

Michael Cashman, a British Labour MEP, said:

“The proposed amendments by Lithuanian legislators to criminalise “promotion of homosexual relations in public places” will clearly violate the enjoyment of these human rights and will severely restrict the right of NGOs to organise peaceful public events.

“For discrimination (i.e. a difference in treatment) to be permitted by law, it has to be based on “reasonable and objective criteria”. What such criteria might cover is still evolving under international human rights law, which is a living instrument that is constantly being developed by judicial bodies.

“Courts have repeatedly stated that where sexual orientation is in issue, there is a need for particularly convincing and weighty reasons to justify a difference in treatment.”

The proposed legislation would make a criminal offence of “promotion of homosexual relations in public
places”, and would establish serious penalties.