Lithuanian Parliament will not host LGBT conference
The Board of the Parliament has not allowed organizing an international conference on the parliamentary premises, which was dedicated towards the protection of sexual minorities’ rights. The main argument behind this decision is that there is a lack of human resources for other events, which are not related to the Lithuanian Presidency of the Council of the European Union. It has appeared that the Lithuanian Presidency of the Council of Europe and a conference by sexual minorities are incompatible events. The Board of the Parliament had refused a requested by the MP Marija Aušrinė Pavilionienė to organize the international conference “Baltic States and EU Roadmap for LGBT Equality” (see the preliminary programme of the conference here) on the parliamentary premises on 26 July 2013. There have been rumors that some members of the Board of the Parliament had received threats that if the decision on the event by homosexuals is positive, windows of the Parliament could get objects being thrown at.
There is still some Hope
Lietuvos žiniosreports that the decision by the Board of the Parliament came as a little surprise for MP Pavilionienė. According to the politician, the Deputy Speaker Gediminas Kirkilas “has left some hope” that the event could still take place under the roof of the Parliament. “In my opinion, this kind of conference would benefit our [EU] Presidency by indicating that our politicians are aware of these problems. I wish that the politicians would set an example and would be responsive. However, it is the way it is”, - says MP Pavilionienė, who interceded for organizing the conference. In addition to this, she reminded that the European Parliament has hosted conferences both on the rights of homosexual and transsexual individuals and there was no controversy about it. “The Board of the Parliament is referring to the [EU] Presidency. I’ve checked – there is no event in the Parliament on that Particular date”, - emphasizes the MP.
She has assured that the foreign ambassadors in Lithuania had expressed a great deal of interest and their willingness to participate in this conference. The list of prospective speakers in the conference encompasses high officials in human rights institution in the EU, MEPs, ombudspersons and representatives of partner organizations in Latvia and Estonia ((see the preliminary programme of the conference here). One-day international human rights conference will be organized in the framework of the Baltic Pride 2013 events. The week will encompass LGBT March for Equality, the above mentioned conference, exhibition, movie festival and other events.
Offers to Select other Places
According to the Deputy Speaker Algirdas Sysas, who supervises the activities of the Office of the Parliament, the issue about this particular conference was raised in the Board of the Parliament twice and the decision was negative at both instances. “In the course of the EU Presidency the priority is given to the events, which are organized by the Parliament. It has been agreed upon that the parliamentary premises will not be available to any other organizations”, - explains the MP. According to the politician, there will be a lot of events in July, which will be hosted by the Parliament. In the opinion by the Deputy Speaker, there are no obstacles for organizing this type of conferences at other locations. “Some members are particularly fond of these issues. We do not want them to organize these types of demarches, which are not wanted by anybody,” – elaborated MP Sysas.
The Deputy Speaker Petras Auštrevičius has confirmed that the EU Presidency is the major reason, why the parliamentary premises were not allocated to this particular conference. “I have not heard any harsh reactions – the decision was based purely on organizational and infrastructural reasons. At least I believe it myself”, - assured MP Auštrevičius, who supervises the issues of the EU Presidency in the Parliament. If it were his personal decision, he would have granted the permission for the conference.
In reaction to the negative decision by the Board of the Parliament, LGL has submitted an official letter to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) on 8 March 2013 inquiring about the possibility to host the international Baltic Pride 2013 human rights conference on the premises of the MFA. In the official letter LGL has emphasized the fact that hosting this event on the ministerial premises in the course of the Lithuanian EU Presidency would send very clear message that LGBT citizens are treated equally as other citizens of the European Union. LGL will wait for the MFA’s answer up until 18 March 2013.
Judicial Proceedings due to the Location
The organizers of the Baltic Pride 2013 face other challenges as well. There are some challenges in communication with the Administration of Vilnius City Municipality and its mayor Artūras Zuokas. In January the municipal authorities have issued permission for the Baltic Pride 2013 March for Equality to proceed. However, they relocated the March from the central avenue in the downtown of Vilnius to rather isolated and inaccessible area on the river bank. The main reason behind this decision is the so-called ‘security concerns’. The organizers have appealed against this decision before national courts. Lithuanian Gay League (LGL) has also complained about this to the mayor of Copenhagen, Mr. Frank Jensen. The mayor of Vilnius has received an open letter from his colleague, indicating that the March for Equality is a gift not only to the city itself, but also to all its citizens.
The mayor of the Lithuanian capital has condemned these actions by the LGL. “LGL has written letters to the majority of the EU city mayors and politicians in order to exercise some political pressure over the mayor of Vilnius and send him open letters. We receive many opinions. I think that it is sought to humiliate our city and our country – the problems are being created, where they do not exist. The Constitution assures the right to freedom of peaceful assembly, but we and law enforcement officials have the duty to maintain security,” – says Mr. Zuokas.
The first LGBT March for Equality in Vilnius took pace in 2010. It was disturbed not only by insults, but also by throwing stones and bottles. The March took place at cordoned area, participants were protected by hundreds of policemen and counter-protestors were managed with tear gas.
Disclaimer: this article does not represent neither an official position by Lithuanian Gay League (LGL), nor vocabulary, used within the organization. This entry is a literal translation of an article "Seimas neįsileidžia seksualinių mažumų" by Lietuvos Žinios, which can be accessed here.