Equal treatment bill stalls in Lithuanian parliament
Not enough MPs turned up to vote for a new equality law in the Lithuanian parliament yesterday and the legislation will have to be rescheduled.
In total eight MPs voted against, 17 abstained and 59 MPs have voted in favour of a proposal to include sexual orientation, age, disability and religion as grounds of prohibited discrimination into the new law on Equal Treatment.
However, only 60 MPs registered to vote for the final draft of the law.
The statutes of the Seimas, or parliament, require at least 71 MPs to vote.
Last week MPs removed age, disability, and sexual orientation protections from the new draft law on equal opportunities.
Egidijus Klumbys, a rightwing MP, successfully argued that the country’s constitution, which does mention sex, race, nationality, language, origin, social status, religion, convictions, or opinions but not sexual orientation, should be the template for the new law.
Several articles of the proposed legislation had conformed the European Union anti-discrimination policy, which covers those three groups.
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.”
The Lithuanian Gay League said:
“We would like to point out that such an amendment considerably narrows the application of the non-discrimination principle in Lithuania,” the group said in a statement.
“Directive 2000/78/EC obligates governments to ensure that people complaining of discriminatory behaviour in their respect based on their age, disability and sexual orientation should have the right to get support and be represented by relevant trade unions or expert organisations or associations.
“Furthermore, governments must guarantee that the sanctions imposed in cases of discrimination are effective and proportionate, and that they do not encourage any further discrimination.”
Lithuania has arguably the worst record on gay rights of any EU nation.
In April a leading European organisation reminded the Lithuanian government that rallies and public events cannot be banned just because some people are homophobic.
The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe expressed concern about the situation in Lithuania, where sexual minorities are barred from holding Pride marches by the authorities in the capital Vilnius.
The Council of Europe formally expressed concern over the situation in the country for the first time since it broke from the Soviet Union and became a free nation once again.
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The 47-member Council of Europe promotes and protects democracy, educational and sporting co-operation and created the European Court of Human Rights.
Vilnius city council has effectively banned any gay Pride events on the grounds of “security.”
In November amendments to the public order and cleanliness regulations were passed, meaning the police or a special commission will be able to ban any event where they think a riot might occur.
“It will be useless to apply for permission to hold our events for the next 10 years, because we won’t get approved,” Lithuanian Gay League chairman Vladimiras Simonko said.
Lithuania is a member of the EU but a large majority of the population are Roman Catholics, and the church is openly hostile to the rights of sexual minorities.
A law banning discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment was passed in 2004, as an obligation for acceptance into the European Union.