VILNIUS — The Vilnius municipal government reversed past policy on Wednesday and agreed to issue a permit for a gay rights march this spring, a decision supported by the U.S.
Previous attempts to hold gay pride events in the Lithuanian capital have been barred by city authorities, who cited security concerns. In 2007 the Vilnius city council unanimously barred an EU-sponsored tolerance of minorities rally from taking place, citing fears that anti-gay protesters may become violent.
However, organizers aren’t thrilled with city hall’s decision to alter the original route from the heart of Old Town to north of Neris River, taking the marchers over the former Šnipiškės Jewish cemetery, which could cause a new bevy of problems. After four years of arguing with the world Jewish community, the municipal government agreed in August to halt further development on the site.
“Yes well, the main problem is that I think, this is the Jewish cemetery place and it is protected by this heritage department,” Sigita Rukšėnaitė, a project administrator for the Lithuanian Gay League, told Baltic Reports. “This is the main problem. Now there is disagreement between those two institutions.”
The parade is a part of a series of events for “Baltic Pride 2010,” which will include the displaying in central Vilnius of the biggest rainbow flag ever made, measuring 30 meters in length.
The event’s stated goal is to promote tolerance and fight discrimination against homosexuals, bisexuals and transgender people in a country well-known for conservative attitudes toward people of non-heterosexual orientations.
U.S. praises decision
In a meeting with the Vilnius Mayor Vilius Navickas on Thursday, the U.S. ambassador to Lithuania Anna Derse presented a report on homosexual rights that said the city’s decision to sanction the march “is consistent with the official U.S. position on this issue.”