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Hellfire and brimstone mounts, and gets thrown off, its hobby horse.

Friends of mine--a heterosexual ex-pat couple who don't speak Lithuanian--recently asked me about a forthcoming law that would make any public expression of homosexual identity a punishable offense.

Although it's true that a lone Lithuanian legislator presented such an amendment to the Seimasa (Lithuanian parliament) on June 11, the story was sexed up (excuse the pun) by local media in the name of ratings and clicks. In a classic case of broken telephone, my friends had received a juiced up report by word of mouth.

Petras Grazulis's attempt to make the "propagation" of homosexuality, bestiality, or necrophilia punishable by up to one year in prison was handily quashed in the legislature. But media had a field day. One story on Delfi. It drew almost 2,000 reader postings--eat your heart out, NYT!

Grazulis, a glutton for the camera eye who is the Seimas's resident disruptive clown and the bane of parliamentary speakers, was well aware that he would generate more coverage for himself by artificially linking homosexuality with the other two predilections--all are "treatable illnesses," he said.

Homosexuality is a "deviation from the norm," but he was at a loss to elaborate on his definition of normalcy when pressed by journalists.

Even worse was his lamentable stab at Old Testament exegesis, which was so moronic that I won't tax you by picking it apart. Crackpots can twist and cherry-pick scripture, especially the Old Testament, to justify anything. Grazulis needs to be careful. In the wake of the demise of Jorg Haider and of Pastor Ted Haggard, people may begin to wonder what beast lies beneath his incessant frothing.

All of this has to do with a tiny pan-Baltic gay pride march set to take place in Vilnius in 2010, which Grazulis and his cohorts in the Hellfire and Brimstone party (a.k.a. Order and Justice) are keen to stop.

Mayor of Lithuania's capital, Juozas Imbrasas, soon to be representing Hellfire in Brussels and Strasbourg, blocked a separate gay rights rally in front of City Hall by refusing to issue organizers a permit. Catholics don't march in the streets proclaiming their faith, he argued. Hogwash. I've seen numerous religious processions in the streets of Vilnius, with all the trappings that left no doubt the participants were celebrating their beliefs publicly.

I once stumbled upon a gay pride event in Toronto, my hometown. I have to admit that I did not find it an edifying spectacle--hordes of nearly naked revelers gyrating to club music. Should small children be allowed to glimpse such public displays? Well, these days any channel-surfing tot can see close-ups of Britney Spears' bellybutton and buttocks, and many "heterosexual" music videos are far more salacious than what I observed in Toronto that day.

Lithuanians frequently feast their eyes on scantily clad athletic men who pant and sweat and explode in fits of orgiastic glee, hugging, kissing and slapping each other's bottoms whenever they manage to pop a bouncy over-sized orange testicle into a mesh scrotum.

Whatever it is that consenting adults, be they pro basketball players or gay revelers, do together in the privacy of their own homes, lights off and curtains drawn, is none of my business. Petras Grazulis, though, seems to spend an inordinate amount of time lying awake at night thinking about just such things, the poor dear.

Some say that Lithuania's gays have only brought trouble upon themselves by insisting on a public platform--if they kept quiet everything would be peachy for all of us, goes that line of thinking. That was Imbrasas's tack as Vilnius mayor. Anti-discrimination activists promised him no Berlin-style beach thongs, just a plain rally that would not offend the sensibilities of the majority. Denying them a public permit, Imbrasas tried to bully the group into holding their event behind closed doors.

China did exactly that for Shanghai Pride 2009 last week, a PR eyewash for Western media. But Lithuania is in the EU, not China.

It's been 20 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, which led to the end of the deep freeze of Soviet overlordship in this region. Perhaps it's facile for me, a Canadian-born Lithuanian, to pontificate and to point out the chinks in this country's public discourse.

Progress comes in bursts, but there is progress. After all, I can express myself freely on this page. I know I'm not in China; I'm in the EU.

One year before I was born, I must remind myself, Canada's justice minister, later the country's PM for almost two decades, began presiding over the decriminalization of homosexual acts. Pierre Trudeau, a card-carrying Catholic and a product of Jesuit schooling, famously declared in 1967 that, "there's no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation." And he had to fight members of his own party, the Liberals (!), to get the law reversed. In the U.S., the Supreme Court only dealt a death blow to similar archaic laws in 2003.
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Title Annotation:Special
Author:Ross, Darius James
Publication:The Baltic Times (Riga, Latvia)
Date:Jun 18, 2009
Words:823
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