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Lithuanian parliament passes homophobic law

The Lithuanian parliament voted on Tuesday to adopt a controversial law that institutionalizes homophobia. Amnesty International has condemned the discriminatory law, which was passed after a majority of parliamentarians voted to overturn an earlier Presidential veto against it. President Valdas Adamkus vetoed the "Law on the Protection of Minors against the Detrimental Effect of Public Information", which violates the right to freedom of expression and the right to be free from discrimination, on 26 June. But on Tuesday, 87 of the 140 Seimas representatives once again voted in favour of the law. 25 parliamentarians abstained and only six voted against the law.   The wide-ranging censorship law had initially been passed by the Lithuanian Parliament (the Seimas) on 16 June. It was widely criticized for its discriminatory restrictions on public information on homosexuality. The law classifies public information about homosexuality and bisexuality with other prohibited material that portrays physical or psychological violence and the display of dead bodies. One clause of the law seeks to ban materials that “agitate for homosexual, bisexual and polygamous relations” from schools or public places and media where they could be viewed by children, on the grounds that they would have a “detrimental effect on the development of minors.” Such a provision could be used to prohibit any legitimate discussion of homosexuality and impede the work of human rights defenders. Amnesty International is seriously concerned that this law will institutionalise homophobia, impeding the work of human rights defenders and furthering the stigmatization of and prejudice against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. "Far from protecting children, the law deprives young people of their right to freedom of expression and access to information and risks isolating children who are already amongst the most at risk of violence at school or within the family," said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International's researcher on Discrimination in Europe. Amnesty International has called on the Lithuanian government to uphold its international human rights obligations and repeal the discriminatory "Law on the Protection of Minors against the Detrimental Effect of Public Information".  The Lithuanian government should also ensure that all persons in Lithuania, including children, fully enjoy the right to freedom of expression – including the right to seek, receive and impart information.