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Gay conference faces ban on public event

Tony Grew October 24, 2007
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A leading LGBT rights organisation has launched a legal challenge after one of the events at its annual conference was banned by the authorities in Lithuania.

ILGA Europe members are gathering for their conference in Vilnius which begins tomorrow, but their public Rainbow Flag event has been blocked by the city’s mayor.

Around 200 delegates from all over Europe are attending the three day meeting, the 11th annual conference.

ILGA Europe chose to meet in Lithuania to highlight the prejudice gay people face in the country, formerly part of the Soviet Union.

Lithuania joined the EU in 2005.

In May the mayor of Vilnius refused to give permission for the European Commission’s anti-discrimination truck tour to visit the city.

The truck was part of the European Year of Equal Opportunities for All campaign, but mayor Juozas Imbrasas claimed it could cause a security risk and riots.

Anti-gay feeling reached new heights later that month after a Swedish ambassador called for tolerance towards LGBT people.

Ambassador Malin Karre delivered a speech to the Lithuanian Parliament on Wednesday May 16th to commemorate the International Day of Fighting Homophobia.

Activists protested her comments outside the Swedish embassy in Vilnius.

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

Earlier this year, reported that more than half of Lithuanian MPs believe homosexuality to be a perversion.

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

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

In September a Lithuanian transsexual won a case at the European Court of Human Rights over claims that he has been blocked from completing his gender transition.

The seven judges also ruled that Lithuania must implement new legislation on gender reassignment within three months or pay damages.

At ILGA Europe’s annual conference members will discuss the organisational priorities, strategies and tactics on advancing equality and human rights for LGBT people in Europe.

New board members are elected and various organisational issues and documents are discussed and adopted. During this year’s conference the delegates will discuss ILGA-Europe’s strategic plan for 2008-2011.

During the conference’s workshops, plenary panels and sessions, a variety of subjects will be discussed: addressing the rights of LGBT people at the UN level, mental health needs of LGBT people, inclusion of trans issues in lobbying and advocacy work, reacting to religious Right, making trade unions LGBT friendly, developing advocacy strategies, using video in monitoring LGBT human rights abuses, reconciling sexuality and spirituality, and many more topics.

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