Lithuania’s Baltic Pride march gets green light

Amnesty International has welcomed a Lithuanian court decision to allow Saturday’s 2010 Baltic Pride march in Vilnius to go ahead.The Supreme Administrative Court decided on Friday that the event could take place, two days after an earlier ruling by a lower court suspending it. The march is Lithuania’s first in support of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people.”This decision is the only right one and the only one that respects the freedom of assembly and expression,” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s expert on discrimination.”We regret the difficulties the organizers of the Pride have faced, but the important thing now is that people are able to march, in dignity and in safefy, in defence and celebration of their rights.” The organizers of the event, the Lithuanian Gay League, Tolerant Youth Organisation, the Latvian group Mozaika, and the Estonian group Gay Youth, have had to overcome a series of obstacles to the march. The latest came this week, when Lithuania’s interim Attorney General asked the court to ban the march on the grounds that expected counter-demonstrators posed a risk to public order. This was despite the police and the mayor of Vilnius having pledged to guarantee the safety of participants at the event. Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite said groups or organizations, unless banned by law, had the right to express their opinion as guaranteed by the Constitution of the country.LGBT people in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia face strong opposition. A recent poll in Lithuania stated that three quarters of the population are opposed to the Baltic Pride march, which forms part of a five-day festival and conference on equal rights for sexual minorities. “There are too many people who live half lives because they don’t there say who they are. We are marching together, LGBT people from the three Baltic states, because we have common problems and because we want to tell people that we exist – that we share the same problems and have the same rights,” said Linda Freimane from the Latvian organization Mozaika.Amnesty International activists from over 20 countries, together with LGBT activists from Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, will take part in the march from 12.00-14.30 on Saturday in Central Vilnius.