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Published: 23 july 2013 15:53

Court's final ruling: Baltic Pride march will take place on Gedimino Avenue in Vilnius

Baltic Pride 2010 akimirka
Baltic Pride 2010 akimirka

The Supreme Administrative Court of Lithuania ruled that Vilnius Municipality must allow an LGBT pride march through the Lithuanian capital's central Gedimino Avenue.

Rejecting an appeal by Vilnius authorities, the court underlined that the right to assembly must be ensured for minorities and people with non-popular views as well.

"Restrictions on the March for Freedom are not necessary in a democratic society," the court ruled.

The court ordered Vilnius Municipality to coordinate the location for the gay pride parade with the Lithuanian Gay League by 11 AM on Thursday. The parade is planned for Saturday.

The court also said that Vilnius Regional Administrative Court was right in its ruling that the march through Gedimino Avenue chosen by the organizers "would ensure a proper balance of personal rights and public interests."

"Democracy does not simply mean the reign of the majority opinion. By ensuring democratic pluralism, the state has positive duties to ensure effective use of the right to peaceful assemblies also for persons with non-popular views or minority members," the court said in a statement.

Vilnius Municipality had suggested holding the pride event on Upės Street a little further from Vilnius center. The organizers, however, want to march through Gedimino Avenue.

The organizers maintain the march, which is held in many Western countries, is important in raising public awareness about discrimination against LGBT people and promoting equality. Meanwhile, some critics in Lithuania say it "promotes homosexuality."

The first gay pride parade in Lithuania took place in 2010, which was also preceded by court hearings on the march location and permission to hold it. The march itself took place eventually, with several hundred people marching through a heavily-guarded territory in the presence of around a thousand protesters.

Vilnius mayor: We'll have to execute court order

Vilnius Municipality will have to execute the court's ruling, Vilnius Mayor Arturas Zuokas has told BNS.

"Upon receipt of the court order, Vilnius Municipality's administrative commission will have to execute it and issue permission for the sexual minority march based on sexual minorities' request, to the full extent from Odminių Square to Lukiškių Square for four hours, with events starting at 1 PM (on Saturday – BNS)," Zuokas told BNS on Tuesday.

In his words, police officers will have to ensure public order and security.

Kęstutis Lančinskas, chief of Vilnius County Chief Police Commissariat, said he would comment on police work during the parade on Thursday.

At a meeting on the gay pride parade in late June, a police representative said that officers would be ready to ensure security during such a parade, irrespective of its venue.

"The position of Vilnius Chief Police Commissariat in this case is that the law does not allow us to agree or disagree, we must execute the law, i. e., to ensure public order and security of people, irrespective of the location of an event. It was stated during the meeting," Vytautas Grašys, head of the commissariat's Public Order Board, said then.

Central street belongs to everyone

Vladimir Simonko, leader of the Lithuanian Gay League, says the ruling of the Supreme Administrative Court of Lithuania to allow an LGBT event on Gedimino Avenue shows that the central street of Vilnius belongs to all people.

"I hope that this bacchanalia of legal nihilism at the municipality is over and time has come to cooperate with the municipality. I hope that it's a good start for having a parade the way we planned it to be in January. It has taken us seven months to prove that human rights do exist in Lithuania and Gedimino Avenue belongs to everyone," Simonko told journalists after the ruling.

The entire civil society will benefit from the ruling, he added.

The LGL leader said that around 800 would take part in the march. He also invited all tolerant people to come. Simonko only stressed that MP Petras Grazulis, infamous for his homophobic attitude, was not welcome.

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