Lithuanian authorities are investigating a possible homophobic motive behind an arsonist attack on an openly gay director’s apartment. It emerges just weeks after the headquarters of a Lithuanian LGBT+ group was set on fire. The director, Romas Zabarauskus, believes arsonists set the corridor of his building on fire after he displayed a pride flag from his balcony. When he awoke, emergency services were at his door and the corridor was full of smoke.
In August, the headquarters of the Lithuania Gay League was set on fire after an unknown arsonist used a flammable substance on the door and blinds of the building. A passing taxi-driver noticed the fire and extinguished it before the fire brigade arrived. It was in response to this attack that Zabarauskus displayed his own rainbow flag “to express solidarity with the LGBT organization and its leader”.
Zabarauskus was disappointed with the advice given to him by one policewoman at the scene who told him to “take the flag down before the whole house burns down”. The director lodged an official complaint regarding this comment and the police are subsequently investigating homophobia as a motive.
There has been an outpouring of support from members of the LGBT+ community in Lithuania. Zabarauskus told Gay Star News that he and his boyfriend are “trying to turn it into a positive experience”. He launched a fundraiser to ship and freely distribute 500 rainbow flags to Lithuania as they are difficult to come by in the country. Zabarauskus added that “Lithuania is a free country and no one can tell me or anyone else what to showcase in their window”.
The community reaction to the recent attacks has been strong in Vilnius, the country’s capital. Zabarauskus noted an increase in the display of rainbow flags, as well as a strong reaction on social media as people began tweeting #LGBTdraugiškaLietuva (LGBT Friendly Lithuania). A Vilnius City Council member, Mark Adam Harold, even displayed a rainbow flag at the municipality.
Same-sex couples are not recognised in the Baltic state after a proposal to give legal status to all couples irrespective of gender was rejected in parliament.
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