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August 09, 2016

State Department Should Press Lithuania to Uphold Rights of LGBT Citizens

Washington, D.C.—Human Rights First today called on the State Department to press the Lithuanian government to reject a Constitutional amendment that would threaten the human rights of its citizens, especially those of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Lithuanians.  Under the amendment, the constitutional definition of “family” would be clearly defined as exclusively based around “[heterosexual] marriage, motherhood, and fatherhood.” The amendment is not only exclusionary, but complements existing anti-LGBT laws already in place in Lithuania, such as a Russian-style propaganda law that infringes on freedoms of speech and assembly.

In a letter to Deputy Assistant Secretary Robert Berschinski, the organization raised concerns over the human rights implications of the amendment’s passage within the country, and more broadly, within the region.

“Time and time again, we have seen these types of exclusionary laws perpetuate homophobia in the region,” wrote Human Rights First’s Shawn Gaylord “The proposed amendment sets the stage for further discrimination and targeted violence against the LGBT community.”

The proposed amendment comes after the country has taken a series of important steps forward for full equality for the LGBT community. In Lithuania this year, three thousand people participated in Baltic Pride, the annual LGBT festival that rotates between Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. More notably, there has been an increase in social acceptance of LGBT people in the country. Yet institutionalized homophobia, continues to stall progress and provides for a permissive environment for violence and discrimination against LGBT people.

The Lithuanian legislature voted in favor of the amendment on June 28, it now requires two additional votes to be adopted. Currently in recess, members of parliament will return to session in September, providing sufficient time for the State Department to engage with Lithuania’s leaders and lawmakers.

Human Rights First continues to urge the U.S. government work to prevent the spread of Russian-style propaganda laws in the surrounding region. Human Rights First’s blueprint, “How to Stop Russia from Exporting Homophobia” details how Russia’s homophobic laws and policies have spread throughout Eastern Europe and Central Asia, and outlines key steps that the U.S. government can take to stop the spread of laws and policies that infringe on the human rights of the LGBT community.

For more information or to speak with Gaylord, contact Christopher Plummer at PlummerC@humanrightsfirst.org or 202-370-3310.