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Lithuanian parliament goes on banning spree

  • 2008-06-19

Not to be seen again in LithuaniaPhoto: Cesar Astudillo

VILNIUS - Lithuanian MPs havereached a final agreement on the controversial and seven times rescheduled Lawon 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 toabstain 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, sexualorientation, disability, pertinence to an ethnic group or religion.

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

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

This was met with much upset from public groups, which noted that the act oflaw "sets Lithuania's judicial systemback many years, tramples upon principles of equality and respect of humanrights".

After much reasoning, MPs agreed to the proposals and didn't resistconsolidation of the prohibition to discriminate homosexuals, disabled, seniorpersons, those professing a particular religion or pertaining to an ethnicgroup other than Lithuanian.

The Seimas also approved a modified amendment proposed by conservativeVilija Aleknaite-Abramikiene, which provisions that the equality principle notbe applicable in educational institutions, if upon their establishment, theschools declare that their students will be taught taking into considerationvalues of a particular religion.

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

Lithuaniais already committed to following the European Union Law on Equal Rights, buthas already missed deadlines outlined in the commitment.