Shortly after independence in 1993, Lithuania decriminalised consensual sexual relations between men. However, despite this progress, Lithuanian homosexuals were still living underground. To combat such discrimination, Vladimir Simonko and Eduardas Platovas, leaders of the national LGBT rights movement, opened the “Amsterdam” club in Vilnius in 1993 and published the newspaper Amsterdam in 1994. In April 1994, the two organised the first International Lesbian and Gay Association East Europe conference, which took place in the Lithuanian town of Palanga. This was the first conference of that nature to be hosted in a post-Soviet state.
Lithuanian Gay League was officially founded in 1995, and has since served as the only organisation in the country exclusively fighting for the promotion of LGBT rights. One of the activities LGL undertakes and that draws most public attention is the Baltic Pride festival. So far the Baltic Pride in Vilnius has taken place three times: in 2010, 2013 and 2016.
In the periodic Rainbow Europe Index published by ILGA-Europe, Lithuania remains at the bottom when it comes to provision of human rights for LGBTI people. The infamous Law on the Protection of Minors against the Detrimental Effect of Public Information in Lithuanian legislation sanctions “public information which has a detrimental effect on minors [and] which expresses contempt for family values”. There have cases where this provision directly interfered with the right to freedom of expression of LGBT persons — for instance, the promo video for Baltic Pride 2013.
In 2017, a group of 31 MPs in the Lithuanian Parliament registered a legislative proposal, which aims at banning legal gender recognition (change of identity documents for transgender persons) and all medical procedures pertaining to gender reassignment treatment. This proposal stands in a sharp contrast with the jurisprudence of the national courts. If approved, Lithuania would become the only country within the broader region of the Council of Europe with an explicit ban on gender reassignment procedure.
A very good example of regional cooperation is Baltic Pride festival. Not only giving an impetus to organise the first ever LGBT Pride in Lithuania, but altogether putting LGBTI equality issues on the regional agenda. Together we are stronger. Of course a lot of inspiration comes from people we work with; making at least a little change for better in the daily lives of LGBTI communities in Lithuania is our reward. Here you can see the story of one of our members at LGL, Tovaldas.