Lithuanian MP Gražulis Avoids Prosecution
On 8 October 2013 the Lithuanian Parliament defended one of its own. Lithuania’s self-appointed family values defender and leading homophobe Petras Gražulis will not have to face legal charges for attempting to disrupt the Baltic Pride March for Equality in July, 2013. A resolution introduced in the Seimas to strip Mr. Gražulis of his parliamentary immunity failed to receive the necessary 71 votes. A committee of parliamentary members established to review Gražulis’ actions at the Pride rally had narrowly voted in favor of recommending the lifting of parliamentary immunity to permit legal proceedings to go forward. According to charges filed by the Prosecutor General, who requested the lifting of immunity, Gražulis failed to heed police instructions not to approach Pride participants and, when denied access, forced his way through police lines.
Before Tuesday’s vote, Gražulis said: “I’m happy with the position I took, and I hold to it. I took a principled stance to defend the values enshrined in our Constitution, and I won’t act any differently in the future.” Mr. Gražulis, who is known for his long-winded speeches in defense of various causes, was heckled by his colleagues from the floor as well as in their formal speeches before the vote.
Liberal leader Eligijus Masiulis, whose party is the only political group to come out openly in favor of providing legalization of same-sex relationships, speculated that it was Gražulis himself who benefitted most from the Baltic Pride. “If we asked the question: who in Lithuania looks forward the most to the homosexual parade, then I would have to unequivocally answer: Petras Gražulis. This is not the first year he’s consistently done so, preparing himself in advance for the march.”
Former parliamentary speaker and frequent opponent of granting legal protection to LGBT individuals Irena Degutienė said that, despite her own personal views, she viewed Gražulis’ actions as demanding a response, saying that “If he wasn’t a Member of Parliament, and there was such an assault against the police, we would call it what it is: an act of a hooligan which requires punishment.”
Gražulis has sponsored several anti-LGBT measures in Parliament including, most recently, a call for the easing of sanctions protecting homosexuals from “critical remarks.”
The lifting of parliamentary immunity requires 71 votes, or a simple majority, of the Seimas. The measure against Mr. Gražulis was supported by only 59 members, with 36 members voting against and 5 abstaining.