A show featuring two couples of gay dads aired on LRT has attracted complaints from incensed viewers insisting that it violated the country's controversial protection of minors law. Some of the more radical activists are planning a protest over the programme on Saturday, but a regulatory panel ruled that it did not harm minors, merely showed the world in its diversity.
‘Colours. Gay Dads’ (‘Spalvos. Gėjai tėčiai’) was the first episode of a documentary series by Elena Reimerytė that appeared on the Lithuanian public broadcaster's online streaming platform LRT Mediateka in early October.
The episode interviewed two same-sex couples from the UK and the US, including the BBC's news correspondent David Gregory-Kumar. The men spoke about surrogacy and raising kids as gay dads.
Lithuania's media supervisory body, the Radio and Television Commission (LRTK), received complaints from 15 individuals about the episode, claiming it violated the law.
The controversial Protection of Minors from Negative Public Information, passed in 2009, contains a provision restricting public information that “abases family values” and champions notions of family and marriage that differ from the one defined in the Lithuanian Constitution and Civil Code.
The country's constitution explicitly excludes same-sex marriage, but a ruling of the Constitutional Court has specified that ‘family’ can be based on other arrangements than marriage and is gender-neutral.
Eight of the ten members of the Radio and Television Commission voted on Wednesday that the show about gay dads did not violate the law.
“We have listened to all the sides and LRT's explanation. Members of the commission believe that the programme did not violate the Law on Protection of Minors from Negative Public Information, it met all standards and there is no reason for a sanction,” Mantas Martišius, the chairman of the Radio and Television Commission, is quoted by BNS.
LRT's deputy CEO Gytis Oganauskas told the commission that the public broadcaster has a mission to represent diversity.
“The entire LRT group believes that there should not be inconvenient or forbidden topics for the public broadcaster to address,” Oganauskas said. “[...] We may agree or disagree with certain topics, admire some, but we cannot close our eyes and pretend things don't exist.”
LRT's legal adviser Armen Airapetian even criticised the law, saying it clashed with European standards.
“Let's agree that the law [on the Protection of Minors from Negative Public Information] is hopelessly antiquated,” he told the commission. “Excuse me for not using legal language, but life is diverse, it moves forward and sometimes the law does not keep up with life.”
One member of the commission, Liudvika Pociūnienė, argued that the programme about gay dads was objectionable because it positively represented surrogacy, which she said was “one of the fiercest forms of human exploitation”.
A group of activists are organising a rally outside the LRT building on Saturday to protest what they claim is LRT's “unconstitutional” policies “directed against Christian values”.