The European Parliament called on the Lithuanian parliament on Wednesday to reject a draft law that would punish the "public promotion of homosexual relations". It added that minors should be able to access information about homosexuality freely and asked the European Commission to present a plan to combat homophobia.
Wednesday's resolution, put forward by the S&D, ALDE, Greens/EFA and GUE/GNL groups, was triggered by "a series of worrying events", according to MEPs. These include the adoption of a Law on the Protection of Minors against the Detrimental Effects of Public Information, an attempted ban by local authorities on holding equality and gay pride marches and the use by leading politicians of inflammatory or threatening language and hate speech.
The immediate issue is a draft law that would amend the Code of Administrative Offences to punish the "public promotion of homosexual relations" with a fine of between €580 and €2900. This could potentially criminalise almost any public expression or portrayal of, or information about, homosexuality, according to a report by the EU Fundamental Rights Agency presented to MEPs on 30 November.
The draft law is contrary to the Lithuanian Constitution, believes the EP, an opinion shared by the Lithuanian Justice Minister. Lithuania's President Dalia Grybauskaitė (a former EU Commissioner) has also taken a firm stand on the legislation, denouncing it as harmful for Lithuanian citizens and the image of the country.
The proposed amendments "have not yet been voted by the plenary of the Lithuanian parliament and are still under review by the Lithuanian national authorities", MEPs point out. They welcome the authorities plan to review the proposed amendments that have been deemed to be in conflict with European law and ask President Grybauskaitė to veto them should they be approved.
EU plan to fight homophobia needed
Parliament also wants the Commission to undertake a legal assessment of the proposed amendments and to issue an EU Roadmap with measures to fight homophobia and discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation.
"EU Institutions and Member States have a duty to ensure that human rights are respected, protected and promoted in the European Union", without distinction on grounds of sexual orientation, emphasise MEPs.
Education about sexual diversity can encourage tolerance
The Lithuanian parliament (Seimas) has already voted, in June 2009, to amend the Law on the Protection of Minors against Detrimental Effects of Public Information, so as to ban minors from accessing information about homosexuality.
But MEPs argue that "no credible research indicates that educating children and young people about sexuality may affect their sexual orientation (...) Education about sexual diversity encourages tolerance and acceptance of differences".