Lithuanian Authorities Continue to Play Games with this Summer’s Baltic Pride, Bringing Potential Ridicule to Launch of EU Presidency

The following news report appeared today in For LGBT Equality:

Forthcoming EU Presidency Capital Persistent in Banning Baltic Pride March on Central Avenue

On 24 April 2013 Vilnius authorities appealed to the Supreme Administrative Court of Lithuania, indicating that, despite the judgment by the first instance court, the municipal authorities have the right to propose a location for a public assembly other than that demanded by the organizers. “The law does not provide an organizer with the right to choose the location for a gathering unconditionally,” the municipality claims in its statement.

Earlier this month, the Vilnius Regional Administrative Court ordered Vilnius Municipality to reconsider a request by the Lithuanian Gay League (LGL) to hold the Baltic Pride March for Equality in the central Gedimino Prospect and to initiate the negotiation procedure anew. The municipality had proposed holding the March for Equality in the rather isolated and inaccessible Upės Street [across the river from the city center]. The LGL then turned to the court, indicating that the proposed site was inadequate for the purpose of the event.

The Baltic Pride March for Equality is scheduled for 27 July 2013.

Path to Equality

“The path to equality is becoming longer,” Vladimir Simonko, director of the Lithuanian Gay League, said in his comment on the Vilnius City Municipality’s decision to appeal against the court ruling to initiate anew the negotiation procedure with regards to the location of the Baltic Pride March for Equality. Simonko’s statement included the following:

“I can say that the path to equality for everyone in the city of Vilnius is becoming longer. I thought that we had gotten a little closer to the standards of European values in this city but it seems that I was wrong. I believe it was a strong signal from the court which ordered to continue the dialogue on the March, but it seems that that path was unacceptable for the other side, and that’s regrettable. (…) We need to be patient and take this path. I still hope and believe that justice is possible in Lithuania.”

LGL takes the position that the Police Department plays an important role in the judicial considerations about the location of the Baltic Pride March for Equality. The organizers are concerned that the Police Department, contrary to the positive experience in the course of the Baltic Pride 2010, is unwilling to secure and implement the effective exercise of the right to peaceful assembly for the groups with unpopular ideas, thus rendering the fundamental rights of the local LGBT community dependable upon presumed majority preferences and political views of some powerful parties. Similar considerations were raised by the MEP Sophie in ‘t Veld (Netherlands):

“If the Lithuanian authorities are capable of protecting a high level EU event, they would certainly be capable of ensuring adequate protection for Baltic Pride.”

It has to be noted that the Ministry of the Interior, which is in charge of the police force in Lithuania, is governed by the Minister Dailis Barakauskas from the Order and Justice Party. His party colleague and the Chair of Order and Justice political group in the Parliament MP Petras Gražulis is notoriously known for his anti-gay legislative initiatives and hateful rhetoric.

Earlier this year he suggested relocating the Baltic Pride March for Equality to the dumping ground.

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