Lithuanian parliament set for crucial vote on homophobic law

The Lithuanian parliament will vote next week on whether to overturn a Presidential veto on a discriminatory law that institutionalizes homophobia.   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. The wide-ranging censorship law had been passed by the Lithuanian Parliament (the Seimas) on 16 June. It was widely criticized for its discriminatory restrictions on public information on homosexuality. On 7 July, a large majority of parliamentarians voted to reconsider the bill. On Tuesday 14 July, the Seimas will decide whether to overturn the Presidential veto. If the veto is overturned, the bill will become law. 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 has called on the Speaker of the Seimas to ensure that any legislation ensures that all persons in Lithuania, including children, fully enjoy the right to freedom of expression – including the right to seek, receive and impart information, without discrimination of any kind. Amnesty International has also asked the Speaker to ensure that any discrimination is prohibited and to guarantee to all persons equal and effective protection against discrimination, including discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.