A Lithuanian court of appeal last night overturned a ban on the country’s first gay pride event, so that it can take place in the next few hours.
Despite assurances from police that hundreds of marchers through the capital Vilnius would be protected, the Lithuanian Attorney General’s Office argued that they could be injured by anti-gay groups. A court sided with the Attorney General and banned the the Baltic Pride march on the 6th May.
Yesterday the Supreme Administration Court rejected that decision saying the Lithuanian Government had a duty to protect free assembly even if its by “those who share unpopular points of view or are members of minority groups.”
Attorney General Raimundas Petrauskas denied the decision was down to homophobia.
He said: “Whose fault would it be if anyone gets hurt? It might look like we are homophobic, but I am not sure if we’d look better with pictures of violence on TV.”
He added that he had received information that several extremist groups were planning to protest against the march.
But police told the court they were ready to send 800 officers to protect gay marchers and the decision to suspend the event was criticised by Lithuanian president Dalia Grybauskaite.
She said she was “surprised” at the decision and confirmed the constitutional right to peaceful assembly.
Politician Petras Grazulis planned to join an anti-gay demonstration said the court had been swayed by Mrs Grybauskaite comments. “I think there are symptoms of constitutional violations that may lead to an impeachment process.”
A poll four years ago found that 80 per cent of people in Lithuania believed homosexuality to be a medical disease. A survey in March of this year found that 73 per cent opposed a gay pride march being held in Vilnius.
The law was amended in December after international criticism. Before, it prohibited the “public dissemination” of any materials which could be seen to promote homosexuality.
Instead, lawmakers approved changes which would ban the “encouraging the sexual abuse of minors, sexual relations between minors and other sexual relations”.
The legislation also prohibits the mention of bisexuality, polygamy, images of straight sex, death and severe injury, the paranormal, foul language and bad eating habits.
It does not specify punishments for breaking the law.