VILNIUS - More than 5,000 people took part in an LGBTIQ march in Vilnius on Saturday to demand more rights for sexual minorities as they were met by several dozen protesters.
March participants were waving EU, Ukrainian and rainbow flags and were carrying various placards, such as "Love doesn't choose gender", "I want to go home and love who I want" and "Love is love, no matter whose love it is".
Participants also chanted "We are everywhere!" and "Let's demonstrate ourselves!"
The Vilnius Pride march took place after Estonia last week became the first Baltic country to legalize same-sex marriage. Meanwhile, in Lithuania, a civil union bill that would legalize same-sex partnerships has passed the discussion stage.
"I am happy for Estonia and I'm also a bit envious. Sometimes we want some small victories, but there are none, and it seems that the LGBTIQ community is being encouraged to accept it, to compromise and some end up with nothing," Ajus Jurgaitis, a co-founder of the Trans Autonomija association and one of the organizers of the march, told BNS. "We are just waiting for progress, and we have none."
He hopes that at least the Civil Union Law will be adopted soon. However, he refrained to predict how realistic this can be.
"It is up to us to say what we want and to demand equal rights. Equal rights are not the subject of some big debate, it's something everyone deserves," the activist said.
"IT'S IMPORTANT TO ATTEND"
March participants deplored Lithuania's slow progress in ensuring the rights of sexual minorities.
Rokas Kersys, 26, who works in non-formal education, said he was very happy about Estonia's decision to legalize same-sex marriage, adding that the decision proves that guaranteeing LGBTIQ rights is a matter of political will, and not a matter of cultural differences between Eastern and Western countries.
And what Lithuania lacks to adopt the Civil Union Laws is political will, he said.
"If they had the will, it could be done tomorrow. (...) How much time it will take to grow that will, only God knows," Kersys told BNS.
Also attending the march, Simona Aukstuleviciute, a 24-year-old teacher, said she was sad that "we have been stuck in the same place for 30 years". She hoped the march would help draw even greater public attention to the community's problems.
"I think it's important to attend and tell people that we exist, we are alive and we don't have human rights," the lesbian told BNS.
Arunas Sidlauskas, a 55-year-old lawyer who marched with his children, said Lithuania has not yet done enough to guarantee the rights of the LGBTIQ community.
"But compared to previous years, we can see that we have much fewer police officers, fewer hostile people. So I think we are improving a lot in this area," he told BNS.
The march was also attended by Vilnius Mayor Valdas Benkunskas, representing the conservative Homeland Union – Lithuanian Christian Democrats, as well as and members of the liberal Freedom Party, including Justice Minister Ewelina Dobrowolska Tomas Vytautas Raskevicius, chair of the parliamentary Committee on Human Rights, who is openly gay.
Vilnius is a city open to all, Benkunskas told BNS, adding that the city has less and less room for hatred.
"What has been a common thing in Western European cities and capitals for decades is slowly taking on a new look here," the Vilnius mayor said.
"We are doing everything in our power to ensure that the Civil Union Law is adopted," Freedom Party leader Ausrine Armonaite, who could not attend the march due to illness, posted on Facebook.
Several incidents were also recorded during and after the march.
A man painted over a rainbow-colored crossing on Pylimo Street with grey paint after the event.
And several dozen people met march participants with chants "Shame!", "Lithuania!" and were carrying placards saying "Fags f*** off", "STOP child abuse" etc.
Also, the national broadcaster LRT reported that a car crossed Gediminas Avenue almost ran into the marchers but people managed to move away and avoid a collision.