On 12 November 2010 the Lithuanian Parliament voted to proceed with the examination of an amendment to the Administrative Code establishing a new offence punishable by a fine(1) for the ‘public promotion of homosexual relations’(2) and seeking to implement the ‘Law on the Protection of Minors Against the Detrimental Effect of Public Information’ adopted on 14 July 2009, which bans - despite having been vetoed twice by Lithuanian Presidents, criticised by the European Parliament(3), and condemned by NGOs defending human rights and LGBT organisations - ‘information that would promote sexual relations or other conceptions of concluding a marriage or creating a family other than established in the Constitution or the Civil Code’. The amendment would seriously limit freedom of speech and expression, such as publicly supporting or campaigning for equality, LGBT rights, or against discrimination based on sex or sexual orientation, and is designed to apply for use in public places, including in the media, and may be applied to prevent LGBT pride marches from taking place. The Lithuanian Parliament is expected to complete the examination of the amendment by December 16. Amendments to the Penal Code have also been tabled and could be examined soon, while uncertainty surrounds a law containing a prohibition of the ‘manifestation or promotion of sexual orientation’ in advertising, as authorities affirm that this provision is a mistake to be corrected. The Commissioner stated that she had ‘been closely following the developments in Lithuania in regards to the law on the protection of minors’, and that she ‘will remain vigilant over possible attempts to use this piece of legislation to discriminate against LGBT people’(4). In a recent letter to ALDE MEPs, the Commissioner confirmed that ‘the Commission firmly rejects any form of homophobia, which is incompatible with the values on which the EU is founded’, and that her ‘department will be analysing the draft legislative text’ and decide ‘whether further action is appropriate’.
Does the Commission think that the draft amendment, if approved and the advertising law are compatible with the values listed in Article 2 of the TEU and the fundamental freedoms guaranteed by the CFR and the ECHR, notably freedom of expression and information and freedom of assembly and with the prohibition of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation? What will the Commission do to express its concern towards the Lithuanian authorities? Should the amendment be approved, will the Commission launch an infringement procedure? Will the Commission propose a European strategy (roadmap) on the fight against homophobia and discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation in the EU in order to ensure fundamental rights are protected, respected and promoted?