Lithuanian court un-bans gay pride parade, homophobes attack

by Rex Wockner

International News Briefs

Lithuania's Supreme Administrative Court overruled the Vilnius Regional Administrative Court on May 7 and un-banned the following day's Baltic Pride march, which was then targeted by more than 1,000 anti-gay protesters.

The court said European Union law obligates the nation to protect the rights to free expression and assembly.

"Lithuania was the last EU member state whose authorities were trying to prevent LGBTI people from their constitutional right to peaceful assembly," said ILGA-Europe, the European Region of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association. "This (is) a triumph of the rule of law and democratic values."

The May 8 march featured 500 marchers, 800 police officers protecting them, and more than 1,000 anti-gay protesters trying to hurt them.

The anti-gays threw rocks, bottles, fireworks and other items, but failed to breach the police cordon. Police used tear gas to keep the homophobes at bay.

More than a dozen people were detained.

Marchers included several members of the European Parliament, foreign ambassadors, and Swedish Minister for European Affairs Birgitta Ohlsson, who said: "Today we are marching for Europe. ... We would never accept homophobia taking over our streets."

The lower court had banned the march on May 5 at the request of interim Prosecutor General Raimondas Petrauskas, agreeing with him that the authorities could not protect marchers from radical anti-gay protesters.

"This parade is like a red rag for a bull," Petrauskas said.

Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite had expressed shock at that ruling.

"The president is astounded ... that the police claim they are ready to ensure safety, but the acting prosecutor general sees a threat," her spokesman told Baltic News Service. "The constitution guarantees the right to peaceful assembly."

The Baltic Pride march was part of five days of events for LGBT people from Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.

A recent Eurobarometer poll found that 93 percent of Lithuanians say they don't know anyone gay, and another poll in March found that 73 percent of Lithuanians don't want gays to hold parades.

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