13th September 2007 12:18
A new law currently before the Lithuanian parliament could be amended to ban the "promotion" of gay, lesbian or bisexual relationships to children. The Protection of Minors against the Detrimental Effects of Public Information Bill will be debated by MPs later this autumn and its supporters argue that the "propagation" amendment does not contradict anti-discrimination laws. Parliamentarians claim that the still unclear definition of "propagation" of relationships outside of heterosexual marriage has "negative consequences for the physical, mental and, first and foremost, moral development of minors."Ann von Below of the Lithuanian Gay League, an LGBT organisation active since 1994, told PinkNews.co.uk:"The sad fact that supporters of the new bill claim that it doesn't contradict anti-discrimination laws, suggests that either the concept of discrimination has been grossly misunderstood by some Lithuanian politicians, or there is a fundamentally undemocratic current running in the Lithuanian parliament. "Either way, the recent development could result in a tragic step backwards for the development of Lithuanian democracy. "We at the Lithuanian Gay League have written to the Lithuanian parliament, and have asked our allies in the European parliament to do the same. "We are hoping that a joint European denunciation will help Lithuanian politicians realise just how unacceptable the proposed bill really is."Margarita Jankauskaite, project manager for the Centre of Equality Advancement and ambassador for the European Commission Campaign "For Diversity, Against Discrimination," claims that the proposed amendment is contradictory to the legislation and the values of the European Union. She also questioned what it means to distort family values; according to statistics, 56% of the families in Lithuania falls apart, and one third of children are being born into unmarried families.In February a poll of members of the Lithuanian parliament revealed that over half of them agree that homosexuality is a perversion.The survey reflected a deeply ingrained homophobia in Lithuanian society. Homosexual sex was legalised in Lithuania in 1993. Many of the MPs who agreed with the Church validated their beliefs by asserting that homosexuality is either an illness or a mental disability. The World Health Organisation removed homosexuality from its list of diseases in 1990. A poll last December found that only 17% of Lithuanians support gay marriage. Lithuania joined the EU in 2004. That year the age of consent for homosexual sex was lowered from 18 to 14 to bring it in line with the age of consent for heterosexual sex.