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Posts for March, 2014

Lithuania Blocks Vote on Anti-Gay Law

Jim Burroway

March 13th, 2014

Buzzfeed reports that the Lithuanian Parliament blocked a proposed anti-gay “propaganda” law that would have imposed fines for “contempt” of “moral values.”

Though a plurality of MPs voted to bring the proposal to a vote — 39 in favor, 34 opposed, and 20 abstentions — this was not enough to move the measure to a vote under rules of procedure.

Gražulis responded to the vote by accusing MPs from the Conservative party who did not back the bill of “changing not only their political orientation but their sexual orientation too.”

Conservative Vida Marija Čigriejienė shot back that Gražulis should not talk about family values since he had recently split with his wife.

Three other anti-gay initiatives are still before parliament, including one to ban adoptions by same-sex couples, another to exempt anti-gay harassment from the country’s anti-discrimination laws, and another that would require event organizers to fully cover police protection and security expenses.

NBC News Brings Scott Lively to Mainstream America

Jim Burroway

September 18th, 2013

We’ve been following Scott Lively for six years now, through his activities in Novosibirsk, Riga, and Kampala. When Russia passed a so-called “anti-propaganda” law which effectively prohibits all advocacy and positive portrayals of gay people, Lively rushed to take credit for it. But with the exception for a brief period in 2009 after Uganda’s parliament proposed a law which would include the death penalty for gay people, Lively hasn’t made much of an impression in the mainstream media. Today, NBC News published a significant profile which gets the rest of America caught up to date with the impact that Lively has had around the world:

Lively has reason to be a bit cocky. America may have “fallen to the gays,” he says, but much of the world still fears them and Lively is working to keep it that way.

In Moldova in 2011, according to Human Rights Watch, he helped several cities declare themselves “gay-free zones” and organized an “emergency” campaign to block a law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. In Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Ukraine and Belarus he met with politicians and pastors, fostering talk of new curbs on gay rights. Every place he goes, Lively says, his goal is to block the open expression of homosexuality, keep discrimination legal and make pro-gay advocacy a crime.

To whip up support for such policies, Lively simply shares his beliefs about gay people: They’re dangerous predators, even killers. And they caught this gay “disorder” through “an evil game of tag,” a chain of abuse in which gays recruit kids into sodomy just as they were once recruited. In this way homosexuality spreads like “a social cancer,” he claims, until nothing remains of the Christian world.

NBC has re-posed portions of video from Lively’s talks in Novosibirsk and Riga, videos which are no longer available at their original locations. Tony Dokoupil’s report provides more information about the extent of Lively’s 2007 tour, which turns out to be more extensive than I had originally thought. Dokoupil also draws a line from Lively’s virulent rhetoric to some of the violence which often follows:

In Oregon in 1992, a same-sex couple died when their house was firebombed during OCA’s campaign to declare homosexuality “abnormal, wrong, unnatural, and perverse.” In Sacramento in 2007, a gay man was called a “faggot” and punched to death by a stranger in a park. In Uganda in 2011, the country’s first openly gay man had his skull caved in. And right now in Russia and in the former Soviet states, there’s been a surge in homophobic vigilantism, including a torrent of shaming videos, some depicting gay teens being tortured by skinheads. Lively has not been linked to any of these crimes but we asked: Couldn’t his talk of predatory gays, “good and evil,” and “war” have played a role?

“Wow, that’s a leap,” said Lively, who sees his work as advocacy in the public interest, no different from campaigning against drunk drivers.

Lively is probably best known within the gay community for his 2009 conference in Uganda. Lively would later brag that the conference was his “nuclear bomb against the gay agenda,” and he immodestly dubbed himself the father of the anti-homosexuality movement in Uganda. Ugandan activists are currently suing Lively in U.S. Federal District Court, alleging that Lively engaged in a conspiracy to deny the LGBT community of their rights and safety under International Law, and that conspiracy resulted in harm to the LGBT community. Lively is being sued under the Alien Tort Statute, which provides federal jurisdiction for “any civil action by an alien, for a tort only, committed in violation of the law of nations or a treaty of the United States.”  Dokoupil adds this concerning the lawsuit:

Pamela Spees, an attorney with the Center for Constitutional Rights, the group pursuing Lively for alleged “crimes against humanity” in Uganda, said she is prepared to file a second lawsuit related to his work in Russia and the surrounding countries, assuming there’s evidence that Lively was “an architect of the persecutory program” there.

And that’s why the case against Lively is so important, gay-rights activists say. As the Olympics draw nearer and the boycotts and homophobic backlash continue, Putin will be the guy paraded down the world’s front pages and social media feeds. But Lively may be the secret agent to watch.

If he loses his lawsuit he could be prohibited from spreading his message abroad, a terrible precedent for other anti-gay crusaders. However if he wins, he emerges stronger than ever, the self-described “hero” of an expanding fight to restore “godliness to society,” as he puts it – or else “pull as many people as possible into the lifeboat before the ship goes down.”

We’ve been following Scott Lively for several years, ever since he first popped up on our radar in 2007 when he was in Riga, Latvia in a stop on a far-flung tour of Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union sponsored by a new international anti-gay organization, Watchmen On the Walls. (That organization now appears to be inactive.) Soon, video appeared of a talk Lively gave earlier in March in Riga. I was then alerted to video of a talk that Lively gave in Novosibirsk in August, where he warned:

There is a war that is going on in the world. There is a war that is waging across the entire face of the globe. It’s been waging in the United States for decades, and it’s been waging in Europe for decades. It’s a war between Christians and homosexuals. …And this is the design of the Devil to destroy civilization, because civilization is based on the natural family.

Then in November, Lively was back in Riga for a multi-day Watchmen conference. On the first day, Lively complained that the United States was under the iron grip of the homosexual agenda, which he called the product of Satan, “the father of lies“:

You have to understand how this battle works. We follow the God of truth. The Holy Spirit, who is called the Spirit of Truth, lives inside of us. But our adversaries follow the father of lies. Scripture calls him the “father of lies.” They can’t tell the truth, and they won’t tell the truth because they don’t want people to listen to what we have to say. But we can’t say anything that would give them proof that what they teach is right… So we must be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. We won’t stop telling the truth, and they won’t stop telling the lies. But this is a war.

In a later talk at the same conference, Lively disclosed what he called secrets that “homosexuality community doesn’t want you to know”: that homosexuality is a disorder, that homosexuality is like an addiction but also that homosexuality is voluntary, that homosexuals really don’t want to be homosexual, and that the only reason we remain homosexual is because the leaders of the homosexual movement have made us afraid of Christians. He also read aloud an open letter to the Russian people, in which he advocated:

…[C]riminalize the public advocacy of homosexuality. My philosophy is to leave homosexuals alone if they keep their lifestyle private, and not to force them into therapy if they don’t want it. However, homosexuality is destructive to individuals and to society and it should never publicly promoted. The easiest way to discourage “gay pride” parades and other homosexual advocacy is to make such activity illegal in the interest of public health and morality.

Russia has effectively done that, after President Vladimir Putin signed the so-called “anti-propaganda” into law last June.

Report: Lithuania Parliament To Consider 5 Anti-LGBT Bills

Jim Burroway

September 11th, 2013

The stain of Russian homophobia is seeping into its Baltic neighbor and former possession, Lithuania, whose Parliament, according to Pink News, is set to take up five separate anti-LGBT bills later this year. The bills would:

  • Prohibit gender reassignment surgery and transgender therapy.
  • Ban adoption by same-sex couples
  • Fine organizers of public events, such as pride marches, up to €1,800 (US$2,400) for “public denigration of constitutional moral values.”
  • Hold organizers of public events financially responsible for “the safety and order,” effectively making them liable for anti-gay protests and violence.
  • And, finally, “The criticism of sexual or sexual practices, convictions or beliefs, or persuasion to change this behavior, practices, convictions or beliefs cannot per se be qualified as harassment, denigration, incitement to hatred, discrimination or incitement to discrimination.”

In 2009, Lithuania’s Parliament passed a law prohibiting “public dissemination” of information favorable to LGBT people. After objections from the European Parliament, Lithuania amended its code with a “ban to spread information that would promote sexual relations or other conceptions of concluding a marriage or creating a family other than established in the Constitution or the Civil Code.” Vilnius officials used that code to try to ban a Pride celebration in Vilnius in 2010. Lithuania’s High Court overturned that ban and allowed the country’s first Pride to take place that year. In 2013, Vilnius was host to Baltic Pride, an annual event which rotates through the three Baltic states.

Lithuanian Pride Marked By Protests

Jim Burroway

May 8th, 2010

About 400 people participating in Lithuania’s first Pride observance in downtown Vilnius were met with more than 1,000 rock- and smokebomb-throwing protesters and were protected by 800 police. Nineteen people were detained, including two anti-gay lawmakers. A Russian-language news report says that a march along the Neris river was cut short due to the violence. A Molotov cocktail was also thrown Molotov cocktail was thrown into the offices of Youth for Tolerance, which helped organize the event. The bomb failed to ignite and no one was injured.

It was the first Gay Pride event in Lithuania, a largely Catholic nation of 3.4 million people that acquired independence from the Soviet Union two decades ago. The parade was originally authorized by the Vilnius city council, but was was prohibited Wednesday by a court. An appeals court on Friday overturned the ban.

Update (May 10): We heard from Kate at Amnesty International, whose account differs from early news reports:

I’m based at Amnesty International’s International Secretariat and was at Baltic Pride on Saturday.  Just a couple of corrections — the march wasn’t cut short (and trouble from the counter-demonstrators didn’t really happen until the end of the march when most of the participants had left the site) and the Tolerant Youth Association had its windows broken that morning but there were no molotov cocktails.  We reckon we had about 500 people on the march and it was a huge success. More info will be available here and participants are sending in their info via the Baltic Pride facebook page here.

Lithuania Pride tomorrow

Timothy Kincaid

May 7th, 2010

After the usual roadblocks and lawsuits, the Lithuanian high court has determined that gay people can assemble tomorrow. (It had been banned under the argument, “if I let you march, it will incite people to try and kill you”)

We should expect that, as usual, the good holy moral and deeply devout Catholics of the fine godly nation will show their true Christian spirit and will try and hurt, maim, denounce, or pelt the participants with rotten food or excrement. Lithuania is a strongly Catholic country and they tend to share the current Pope’s attitudes about religious freedom, human rights, and personal dignity.

Lithuania weakens anti-gay law

Timothy Kincaid

December 23rd, 2009

The Baltic state of Lithuania appears to be backing away a bit from previous anti-gay legislation. (Agence France-Presse)

In a 58-4 vote, with 25 abstentions, parliament approved amendments to legislation that sparked criticism from rights groups in Lithuania and abroad when it was passed in July.

The original law, which had been due to come into force in March 2010, barred the “public dissemination” of information favourable to homosexuality, claiming it could harm the mental health and physical, intellectual and moral development of minors.

Lithuania had been experiencing some image problems from other Europeans due to their position. This was causing some difficulties in being considered a part of the European community.

Opponents of the law had argued that it was not only homophobic but would also impose broad censorship and violate Lithuania’s commitments as a member of the United Nations and the European Union.

Lithuania’s President Dalia Grybauskaite had demanded that parliament amend it.

“The homophobic clauses have been removed. The law is in line with European standards,” her spokesman Linas Balsys told AFP Tuesday.

Local gay groups are not content, finding the newly proposed language to also be oppressive.

Council for Global Equality’s Top Ten List “Where The U.S. Should Do More”

Jim Burroway

April 28th, 2009

Here is something that escaped our notice until now. The Council for Global Equality, in responding to the U.S. State Department’s annual human rights reports, has identified what it calls the “Top Ten Opportunities for the U.S. to Respond” to anti-LGBT human rights abuses which are highlighted in the report. The countries identified by the Council include Egypt, Gambia, Honduras, India, Jamaica, Kuwait, Kyrgyz Republic, Lithuania, Nigeria, and Uganda.

The ten countries weren’t necessarily selected because they are the worst countries in the world for LGBT abuses. Instead, they are identified as the ten countries in which the U.S. has the best opportunity to influence change through diplomatic, political and economic leverage. The details for each country are found at the Council’s web site (PDF: 140KB/8 pages) Here is a rundown for each country targeted by the Council, along with the Council’s recommendations:

  1. Egypt: arrests, beatings and imprisonment of men suspected of being HIV-positive. Egypt is the third largest recipient of foreign AID. “Our partnership with Egypt should extend beyond the Middle East peace process: it should require a broad commitment to human rights that includes the rights of LGBT men and women.
  2. Gambia: President Yahya Jammeh threatened to “cut off the head” of any homosexual in his country. “We should explore using USAID funds to support programs that encourage tolerance, respect for diversity, and a genuine commitment to civil society”
  3. Honduras: Identified as “one of the worst violators of gay and transgender human rights in 2008.” Police routinely round up LGBT youths without cause and Honduran security officials reportedly condone assaults and rapes on gay detainees. Multiple murders were reported, including a leading transgender rights activist. “The U.S. Embassy should offer visible support to LGBT leaders in the country, and should press for accountability within the Honduran government. It should work with Honduran authorities to offer tolerance and diversity training for police and other security forces that are suspected of complicity in human rights abuse. It also should press for a prompt and thorough investigation of the murders and other incidents noted above.”
  4. India: Police often commit crimes against LGBT people, and officials in Bangalore ordered the arrest of transgender people. “Given our increasingly close relationship with India, we should express frank concern to the Indian Government over LGBT violence and discrimination.”
  5. Jamaica: There have been numerous anti-gay mob attacks, sometimes with direct police complicity. Some attacks have resulted in murder. Homes were firebombed, and one individual was hacked to death by a machete. LGBT advocates continue to be murdered, beaten and threatened, driving some into exile. Police have been criticized in many instances for failing to respond. “Senior U.S. officials should urge Jamaica’s Prime Minister to show leadership by condemning this violence and instituting measures to bring these and any future perpetrators to justice. U.S. police assistance should be targeted toward programs that promote tolerance and the defense of vulnerable groups against mob violence.”
  6. Kuwait: Abuses against transgender individuals were cited. “Individual liberties are at the heart of our democracy, and are critical to the development of deep-seated relationships with like-minded friends and allies. We need to encourage this understanding with Kuwaiti and other authorities as part of our dialogue on human rights.”
  7. Kyrgyz Republic: The report notes “a pattern of beatings, forced marriages, and physical and psychological abuse in the Kyrgyz Republic against lesbian and bisexual women and transgender men.” The Council notes that Kyrgyzstan receives significant foreign assistance. “if Kyrgyz officials are unwilling to address the problem, we should reevaluate our assistance levels and other bilateral programs.
  8. Lithuania: Political leaders have embraced anti-gay policies and have denied LGBT groups the right to assemble peacefully. “Freedoms of assembly and of association are fundamental rights in any democracy. If Lithuania is to claim its place as a democratic state, it must be challenged to honor these principles in law and in practice.”
  9. Nigeria: Adults convicted of homosexuality are subject to stoning in parts of the country that have adopted Shari’a law. LGBT advocates have been threatened, stoned, and beaten. A proposed law pending in Nigeria’s Senate would not only ban same-sex marriage, but any “coming together of persons of the same sex with the purpose of living together …. for other purposes of same sexual relationship.” This would open the doors of arrest for those who are legally married outside of Nigeria and who happen to travel to that country for business or vacation. “We hope it [the U.S. Embassy] will work with European and other embassies in Abuja to voice strong concerns over this dangerous new bill in the Nigerian Senate.”
  10. Uganda: Homosexuality is criminalized. Police arrested members of an NGO for taking a public stand against discrimination, as well as three LGBT activist at an HIV/AIDS conference. “Uganda is one of the largest recipients of PEPFAR funding for HIV/AIDS care, prevention and treatment. In Uganda, the money has been used to empower institutions and activists that have led homophobic campaigns in the country. We need to consider whether the US government’s priority focus on abstinence funding is blunting the effectiveness of the money we’re spending, while also discouraging tolerance-based response to the epidemic.”

Writing on behalf of the council, Mark Bromley highlighted Egypt and Jamaica for special concern:

Egypt was our third largest recipient of foreign aid from USAID and the State Department last year.  I would not suggest cutting off U.S. assistance in a country like Egypt, but I am convinced that our funding should give us more leverage to speak out forcefully against the HIV arrests documented in the report.

… The U.S. government’s diplomatic response to these abuses must be strong and unconditional, and it should also be tied to our financial commitments in the country. Jamaica is a country where carefully-targeted U.S. support to gay rights or human rights groups could be effective in improving both the legal and community responses to LGBT violence.  In addition, we should use the foreign assistance funding that we have allocated over the past several years to professionalize the Jamaican police force to help respond to these attacks.

Lithuania Passes Non-Discrimination Bill

Timothy Kincaid

June 19th, 2008

Well knock me down with a feather. Some good news out of the Baltic States.

Pink News is reporting

Discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation has been included in a new Law on Equal Treatment passed by the Lithuanian parliament.

The new bill “requires equal treatment in the provision of goods and services” and joins a 2004 law banning employment discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Gays Smoke-Bombed in Lithuania

Timothy Kincaid

October 26th, 2007

lithuania.jpg

As we have discussed before, the international anti-gay group Watchmen on the Walls has been wielding influence in Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine and Russia. They also enjoy the support of influential American preachers such as Ken Hutcherson and are seeking to import their violent brand of homophobia into areas of the United States which have large immigrant populations from those areas.

Now the BBC is reporting more violence out of that part of Europe:

An annual gay rights conference in the Lithuanian capital, Vilnius, was attacked with smoke bombs, after a rally in the city was banned.

The decent thing would be for those involved with the Watchmen to condemn this act of terrorism. They won’t.

The decent thing would be for those who associate with Ken Hutcherson and Scott Lively to disavow their tactics and their complicity in acts of violence. They won’t.