[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Friday, 26 October 2007, 02:23 GMT 03:23 UK
Lithuanian mayor bans gay rally
By Mathew Charles
BBC News, Vilnius

Building work in square in Vilnius
The mayor said building work in the city made the rally unsafe
An annual gay rights conference in the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius, was attacked with smoke bombs, after a rally in the city was banned.

Over 200 gays, lesbians and transsexuals attended the meeting.

Delegates inside a local bar found it difficult to breathe after the smoke bombs were thrown, but had to stay inside because of safety concerns.

The event was to be part of a week of events organised by ILGA Europe, a gay rights group based in Brussels.

A press officer for Mayor Juozas Imbrasas told the BBC the public gathering had been banned because of what she said were "safety concerns" due to building works.

ILGA Europe rejected the mayor's decision saying no alternative site had been offered to them and described the ruling as appalling.

Executive Director Patricia Prendiville said "It is a positive duty of the city authorities to offer an alternative venue to the applicant and they did not do that.

"There is no doubt that the City of Vilnius used the construction works as a cover. "

Strasbourg option

Earlier this year a similar ban in Poland dating back to 2005 was found to be in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Gay rights conference in Vilnius
The conference is held annually in Lithuania

Juris Lavrikos, communications officer for ILGA Europe said, "This ruling also applies to Lithuania. We're very sorry that the Mayor of Vilnius is apparently ignoring this. If we have to take this case to Strasbourg too, it will be a total of waste of Lithuanian tax-payers' money."

Many at the conference see this ban as further evidence of the Lithuanian administration's apparent lack of commitment to equality.

The publication of a recent study from the Vytautas Magnus University in the city of Kaunas, was halted by university officials. A Professor of Sociology in charge of the project said he was convinced this was because it contained four pages exploring homosexuality.

Vladimir Simonko from the Lithuanian Gay League said, "There is unfortunately institutional homophobia in Lithuania. A recent survey of MPs revealed the majority of them have a negative attitude towards the gay community. It's hard work for us."

Education law

The Lithuanian parliament, the Seimas, is currently debating proposed legislation that would ban what they call the "propagation of homosexuality" to minors. Such a move would ban literature or films in schools that were about homosexual relationships.

A representative from the European Commission said these proposals would contradict EU anti-discrimination legislation, not to mention the values of the European Union.

But Rima Baskine, head of the Seimas Commission for Family and Child Affairs emphasised that the proposed law in no way contradicts anti-discrimination measures as the bill is not intended to encroach on the tolerance of homosexual and bisexual relationships.

"They should just not be promoted," she maintained.

A vote on the proposals is expected before Christmas.

Eastern gays seek Berlin refuge
02 May 03 |  Europe

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific