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TWO COMPETING NORMATIVE TRAJECTORIES IN THE CONTEXT OF THE FIRST BALTIC GAY PRIDE PARADE IN LITHUANIA

Liudas Mažylis, Sima Rakutienė, Ingrida Unikaitė-Jakuntavičienė
Keywords: LGBT rights, post-Soviet space, Baltic gay pride parade, media, competing norms, European influence ,

Abstract

For a long time post-Soviet space has been perceived as homophobic and intolerant of LGBT persons. The three Baltic States – Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia – as former Soviet republics and current members of the European Union, represent the space where a strong homophobic post-Soviet atmosphere competes with pro-LGBT Western influence. This article examines how the first LGBT Pride Parade (which occurred in Vilnius in 2010) is reflected in Lithuanian media portals. The article also presents the broader context of LGBT issues by reviewing legal changes and Lithuanian political parties’ programs. Our analysis of the media and other sources is based on three arguments: 1) that the LGBT pride parade in Vilnius became the most important event for reflecting LGBT issues in the media and society; 2) it might have not been possible without support and influence from external institutions; and 3) the LGBT parade revealed the division of two competing normative trajectories in Lithuania. The reconstructed trajectories in the article are based on the theoretical framework of new institutionalism, media analysis, interviews and focus groups. Construction of the LGBT campaign and counter-campaign seem delimited rather than approaching them as value normative consensus. However, the way in which LGBT persons are reflected within the Lithuanian media is remarkably different in comparison with the early post-Soviet period.
The Baltic gay pride parade “for equality” and external (Western) support for it were highly visible in the media, influenced a significant debate on the topic not otherwise experienced in Lithuania, and (re)introduced a question about the perception of ‘normality’ within society. These debates also raise the question of how norms and institutions change and adapt within society