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In the words of one participant: “In 2010, I felt like I was going to some war, there were large metal fences, police on horses, loud screaming from the protesters; this year it was completely different — people were marching, and I did not even see that many aggressive protesters, many people were simply curious.”4 Thus it seems that, for the first time in Lithuania’s history, an event celebrating LGBT rights resembled similar events in more progressive countries.
The question remains, however, whether the changing face of the Baltic Pride represents a changing situation for LGBT persons in Lithuania.
As a result, more LGBT persons were able to join without fear of retribution.
In contrast to the previous pride marches held in Vilnius, this time reactions were not as hostile and, according to the police, there were no major incidents.
On June 18, 2016 a march for LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) rights, known as the Baltic Pride parade, took place in Lithuania’s capital, Vilnius.
Published in the printed edition of Baltic Worlds BW 16, pp 4-9 Published on on On June 18, 2016 a march for LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) rights, known as the Baltic Pride parade, took place in Lithuania’s capital, Vilnius.
This was also the largest of the three parades with 2,000 to 3,000 participants marching through Gediminas Avenue, the main street of Vilnius.1 The Baltic Pride took place a few days after the Orlando nightclub shooting in the United States.
According to a 2015 Eurobarometer survey, only one-third of Lithuanians thought that there was nothing wrong with sexual relations between two persons of the same sex (the lowest score of 23% in Latvia, 40% in Estonia; EU average: 67%) and around one-fourth agreed that same-sex marriage should be allowed throughout Europe (the lowest score of 17% in Bulgaria, 31% in Estonia; EU average: 61%).However, in order to join the EU, Lithuania had to fulfill the membership criteria which, among other things, required “stable institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights and respect for and protection of minorities.”8 Motivated by the EU’s membership incentive, Lithuania created a legal and institutional framework, which granted some rights for LGBT persons (such as decriminalization of homosexual relations, equal age of consent, and prohibition of discrimination on the ground of sexual orientation).9 In addition, Article 2.27 of the Lithuanian Civil Code established the right of an individual to gender reassignment, if it is medically possible.Yet surveys indicate that the formal protection of LGBT rights did not translate into a dramatic improvement on the ground.This can be compared to 51% in Estonia, 73% in Latvia, and 32% as the EU average.Interestingly, Lithuanians remain supportive of the abstract idea of human rights, with 88% agreeing that “human rights” is a positive thing (albeit one-fourth argue that human rights should protect “normal people” only).12 Despite these numbers I would argue that there are reasons for cautious optimism.