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2021.10.19 08:00

Lithuania's ‘gay propaganda law’ lives on despite opposition

LRT.lt2021.10.19 08:00

While Hungary's recent anti-LGBTQ legislation has drawn wide condemnation from the EU, a similar law has been on Lithuania's books for over a decade. Activists say it curbs free speech and condones homophobia.

The legislation, dubbed by its critics the “gay propaganda” law and passed in 2009, bans sharing information with minors that “expresses contempt for family values (or) encourages [...] entry into a marriage and creation of a family other than stipulated in the Constitution”.

“I'd really like to see the law [overturned], because, thinking about myself as a child, it was extremely hard to live with parents that don't really accept you, then going to a school that is very intolerant,” 21-year-old Lithuanian molecular biology student Rimas Prokopovičius is quoted by the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

He said he was bullied for being gay while growing up in his northern Lithuanian hometown.

While the legislation, officially called the Law on the Protection of Minors from Negative Public Information, does not explicitly name the LGBTQ+ community, it has been used to suppress positive representations of same-sex couples in the past, Thomson Reuters Foundation reports.

In 2014, a book of fairytales by Neringa Dangvydė Macatė was withdrawn from sales because it featured two same-sex couples. When it was reissued, the book had to bear stickers warning about potential harm for under-14-year-olds.

Macatė has sued and the case is currently making its way in the European Court of Human Rights.

“This law is something that does inhibit free speech,” Robert Gilchrist, the US ambassador to Lithuania, who himself is openly gay, has commented to the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Lithuania is now looking to legalise same-sex civil partnerships, which observers say would be a major stop toward ensuring the rights of the LGBTQ+ community in the country.

Government officials say that changes are taking place, albeit slowly.

"I do believe Lithuania is liberal despite the fact we are having issues," Justice Minister Evelina Dobrovolska told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Read more: Is Lithuania hypocritical for criticising Hungary's anti-LGBT law?

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