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 developments.”

“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.”