Lithuania's highest court Friday
reversed a lower court ruling that banned a gay pride parade from
taking place Saturday in Lithuania's capital city of Vilnius.
The regional event, titled Baltic Pride
2010, joins the Baltic nations of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia in a
gay pride parade that runs down Vilnius' downtown streets.
Law enforcement officials warned that
the parade – oppose by a large majority of Lithuania's largely
Roman Catholic population – would spark violence. The lower court
agreed and forced the parade's cancellation.
The cancellation drew heated protest
from human rights groups.
“It is important that the Lithuanian
authorities take the appropriate measures to allow for Baltic Pride
2010 to go ahead unobstructed and peacefully,” Nicola Duckworth,
senior director at Amnesty International, said in a statement. “This
will signal to the people of the country that LGBT people have the
same rights as anyone else.”
“It will also signal to the
international community that the Lithuanian authorities are ready to
comply with their obligations as members of the European Union and
the Council of Europe.”
In a letter to Rytis Martinkonis,
Lithuania's representative to the European Union, the director
general of the European Commission's justice, freedom and security
department, Jonathan Faull, said he was “concerned about the recent
“Respecting fundamental rights,
including freedom of expression and assembly, is an obligation
imposed on member states by their own constitutional order and
international obligations,” he wrote.
The Supreme Administration Court said
Friday that the parade – as a form of assembly and free speech –
was protected by the European Convention and that the government is
obligated to defend such rights.
Vladimir Simonko of the Lithuanian Gay
League, the event's main sponsor, told the Baltic News Service that
the high court's decision showed Lithuania had “substantial
potential to become a tolerant country.”