Freedom of association and assembly without discrimination has prevailed in Lithuania. The Baltic Pride 2013 march – a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) event - went ahead, as originally planned, along a main thoroughfare in the capital, Vilnius, on 27 July.
This victory sends an important message to Europe, particularly as Lithuania hosts the European Presidency: respect human rights for all, said Martin Rømer, ETUCE Director.
Lithuania currently heads the EU's rotating presidency. However, the Baltic States - Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia - continue to discriminate against gays and lesbians.
The Baltic Pride 2013 event was the first LGBT march sanctioned to take place on the main street of Vilnius, even though it took a court ruling to force the municipal authorities to issue a permit for it. Initially, the Vilnius municipal authorities had refused to sanction the venue; however, the city’s Regional Administrative Court revoked the appeal by Vilnius authorities.
"Restrictions on the march for freedom are not necessary in a democratic society," the Court ruled. Its decision underlined that the right to assembly must be ensured for minorities and people with unpopular views as well as those in the mainstream, EI General Secretary Fred van Leeuwen highlighted.
The Baltic Pride 2013 march is the first Pride event to be held in Vilnius since 2010. The Vilnius Mayor, Arturas Zuokas, and city authorities had tried to block the march saying that it would be a “threat to public peace”, and challenged the Vilnius Regional Administrative Court’s ruling earlier this month that the march should be permitted.
In 2010, 400 people took part in the first Baltic Pride march, demanding equality for people of all sexual orientations. That march was held in a sealed-off area of Vilnius, and was also preceded by a court hearing to determine the march’s location and permission to hold it. The march was met with protests from radical and violent groups. At least 12 opponents were arrested, including two members of the Lithuanian Parliament. The MPs were charged with attempting to incite a riot.
Teacher unions involved in Pride events
On 26 July this year, the international human rights conference, “Towards a European Roadmap for LGBT equality”, was organised to coincide with the Baltic Pride 2013 event. The conference brought together human rights defenders and policy-makers from around Europe to assess the situation of LGBT rights and the work still to be done in this area. Attendees included ETUCE member organisations.
Other Baltic Pride 2013 events included exhibitions, film screenings, theatre events, literature readings and the equality march on 27 July. The programme is available at http://www.lgl.lt/en/files/BP-Programme-EN.pdf
EI member organisations join pride parades in Europe
Elsewhere, Lärarförbundet (Sweden) joined Stockholm Pride 2013, the Scandinavian country’s largest Pride Festival (31 July-3 August). The festival will include a seminar on “The role of LGBT teachers in the teachers’ organisations in four European countries”, to be held on 2 August, a picnic and an opportunity to join the parade. The Pride festival is also an opportunity to meet other members, answer their questions and listen to their experiences and opinions, said Maria Karlsson, Lärarförbundet Ombudsman and member of the LGBT network.
Speak out against the cuts, rights and pride
In Spain, FETE and FECCOO supported the LGBT pride demonstration in Madrid under the theme, “Jóvenes sin armarios” and participants demanded the right to live freely without homophobia, both in educational institutions and in other areas of social and community life. EI member organisations denounce inequalities that still exist against LGBT in the workplace. FETE and FECCOO advocate for the introduction of specific clauses in collective agreements that guarantee equality and non-infringement on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. For more info on events in Spain, log on to http://seccionsindicalugtuem.wordpress.com/2013/07/02/manifestacion-del-orgullo-lgtb-2013-jovenes-sin-armarios/
The struggle continues
EI and ETUCE continue to raise public awareness about discrimination against LGBT people and to promote equality in all areas of life, including educational institutions and trade unions.