VILNIUS - The European Parliament threatened to slap Lithuania with sanctions after politicians moved to eliminate the provisions for gay people from the Law of Equal Treatment.
The changes were shot down in a preliminary hearing, but another vote on the issue was scheduled to take place on June 12. The proposed amendments involve removing provisions protecting homosexuals in the Equal Treatment Law. The changes proposed also target disabled people and the elderly.
Egidijus Klumbys, a member of the Order and Justice Party, is heading up the proposal that will be considered by the Seimas (Lithuanian parliament). He said that in the constitution there is mention of discrimination laws, but not for homosexuals. He also said that it was his personal opinion that gay people should not receive support from the law.
"It is written very clearly [in the constitution] and I don't want any laws that contradict that. This is what I personally believe and I think that a lot of people agree with me," Klumbys said.
Valdas Dambrava, adviser for public relations for the Office of Equal Opportunities, meanwhile said Lithuania is the most homophobic and intolerant nation in the European Union.
"People in all countries in the European Union were asked the same questions and it came back that we are the most intolerant of all," he said.
Dambrava said conservative politicians are simply doing what they think they need to in order to get votes. He hopes that politicians will soon change their minds.
"I hope that politicians will do the right thing and vote this out on [June 12]," he said.
"I think the members of parliament are aware of our [Lithuania's] obligations to the European Union and they will vote accordingly," he said.
There are currently six ways that Lithuanian citizens are protected under the Equal Treatment Laws. People are protected based on gender, age, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity and religion. With the law currently up for amendment, some are trying to expand it.
"There might be extra stipulations added to the law. Maybe there will be 10 at the end. They will add language, social status and origin," Dambrava said.
British MEP, Michael Cashman, president of the Gay and Lesbian Intergroup in the European Parliament, said if the law is approved it will mean that Lithuanian citizens 's and visitors to the country 's will not have protection from unequal treatment. This could lead to the denial of services, goods or employment.
"This will also diminish the possibility of effective redress in discrimination cases in employment, which is against employment directive," he said.
"I must warn Lithuania that sanctions will follow if the effective redress stipulated in Directive 2000/78/EC is not guaranteed," he said.
Vilnius will be the cultural capital of Europe for 2009 and Cashman believes that this law could result in problems for homosexual visitors.
"It [Vilnius] must welcome and protect all our citizens not just from the EU, but from around the worldâ€¦ I urge the Lithuanian politicians to do the right thing," he said.
Dambrava said people have adopted their extreme attitudes from the Soviet Union, where gay people were not tolerated.
"We suffered the occupation of the Soviets for a long time and under that law, being gay was illegal and carried serious consequences if you got caught," he said.
This is the second time in recent weeks that conservative politicians have attempted to stymie rights for minorities. Politicians have also recently proposed a bill that would deny single mothers the same rights that full families enjoy.