MEPs urge Lithuania to back down on anti-gay law
(STRASBOURG) - European lawmakers called on Lithuania's parliament Wednesday to reject a draft law deemed anti-gay and urged the Baltic state's president to veto its enactment if passed.
A statement said the law "would punish the 'public promotion of homosexual relations'," arguing that "minors should be able to access information about homosexuality freely" and asked the executive European Commission to lodge new plans to combat homophobia.
MEPs highlighted "a series of worrying events," from inflammatory political statements, bans on marches and "the adoption of a Law on the Protection of Minors against the Detrimental Effects of Public Information."
They agreed to "ask President Dalia Grybauskaite (a former EU commissioner) to veto them should they be approved."
The elected officials argue that "no credible research indicates that educating children and young people about sexuality may affect their sexual orientation," instead saying information "encourages tolerance and acceptance of differences."
Grybauskaite is on record as saying the proposed law presents Lithuania "in a very homophobic, very aggressive manner."
The law, which passed a first reading in November last year, would impose fines of up to 10,000 litas (2,900 euros, 3,955 dollars) for "publicly promoting homosexual relations."
Same-sex relations were decriminalised in Lithuania in 1993 -- two years after the country won independence from the crumbling Soviet Union, which had banned homosexuality.
But opposition to homosexuality remains entrenched in this overwhelmingly Roman Catholic nation of 3.3 million that joined the European Union in 2004.
Lithuanian lawmakers first sparked a storm of criticism in July 2009 when they banned "public dissemination" of homosexuality -- without defining the offence or setting down a punishment.
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