Lithuanian capital elects first openly gay politician to city council

Tomas Vytautas Raskevičius

Last weekend, the Lithuanian capital city of Vilnius elected the first openly gay politician to its city council. Human rights activist Tomas Vytautas Raskevičius has become the first proudly open gay person to be elected to the political office in Lithuania. The candidate was running on the list of the current liberal mayor Remigijus Šimašius, who has made headlines by stating that “Vilnius is LGBT-friendly city.”

The newly elected LGBT+ politician has identified hate crime prevention, LGBT+ inclusion and equality mainstreaming as his political priorities. With 3000 priority votes, he has secured the seat in the Vilnius city council for a 4-year term. Tomas Vytautas Raskevičius was running in the list of the current liberal mayor Remigijus Šimašius, who got 17 seats in the 51-seat city council after the Sunday's election.

"I am very happy with the results. The seat in the City Council will provide me with a platform to talk about LGBT+ topics more loudly. The LGBT+ legal situation remains challenging at the national level, so we have to intervene at the local level as well," – said Raskevičius.

The mayor Šimašius made headlines shortly before the elections by visiting the local gay night club. The liberal politician said:"It's time to say once and for all: Vilnius is a welcoming city for the LGBT community. If my visit here sends the signal that all citizens of the city can feel comfortable regardless of their sexual orientation, I am satisfied." While Šimašius already has the biggest group in the council, he still has to face a runoff election for the mayor's seat on March 17th.

According to the ILGA-Europe's Rainbow Map, Lithuania scores 37th place among 49 European countries in terms of protecting LGBT+ human rights. While discrimination is illegal, there is no recognition of same-sex families and positive information on LGBT+ topics is legally considered as "homosexual propaganda". In January, 2019 the Lithuanian Constitutional Court passed a landmark judgment stating that same-sex partners are considered as families under the country's Constitution.

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