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Lithuanian parliament goes on banning spree

Jun 19, 2008

Lithuanian parliament goes on banning spree
Not to be seen again in Lithuania Photo: Cesar Astudillo

VILNIUS - Lithuanian MPs have reached a final agreement on the controversial and seven times rescheduled Law on Equal Rights, which provisions cases of prohibiting discrimination. However, the principle of equality will not be applied in educational institutions, which have constitutive documents to prove their appeal to religious values.

A total of 64 MPs voted for the new law, with six MPs rather choosing to abstain and one having expressed a contrary opinion.

The new law will prohibit discrimination of people over gender, race, nationality, language, origin, social status, beliefs or creed, age, sexual orientation, disability, pertinence to an ethnic group or religion.

MPs had previously gotten into a dispute regarding the purposefulness of some causes of discrimination. Prohibition of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation caused most clashes in the session hall, with some MPs having expressed an especially negative opinion on homosexuals and appealed to the Christian sentiments of other Members of Parliament.  

The law had previously excluded prohibitions on discrimination over sexual orientation, age, disability, pertinence to an ethnic or religious group.

This was met with much upset from public groups, which noted that the act of law "sets Lithuania's judicial system back many years, tramples upon principles of equality and respect of human rights".

After much reasoning, MPs agreed to the proposals and didn't resist consolidation of the prohibition to discriminate homosexuals, disabled, senior persons, those professing a particular religion or pertaining to an ethnic group other than Lithuanian.

The Seimas also approved a modified amendment proposed by conservative Vilija Aleknaite-Abramikiene, which provisions that the equality principle not be applicable in educational institutions, if upon their establishment, the schools declare that their students will be taught taking into consideration values of a particular religion.

The new edition of the Law on Equal Rights was under discussion in the Seimas for an extremely long period of time, and had difficulty in reaching the final decision, as some MPs were unsatisfied that the bill undermines the right of parents to educate their children according to their own creed, while others were upset over the idea to protect gays, lesbians and transsexuals.

Lithuania is already committed to following the European Union Law on Equal Rights, but has already missed deadlines outlined in the commitment.

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