European countries that do not legally recognize same-sex relationships, including Lithuania, have seen a rise in homophobia over the last 14 years, a new study by Hungarian researchers suggests.
The study, co-authored by Judit Takacs of the Hungarian Academy of Science, shows that, by contrast, acceptance of gay and lesbian relationships increased in countries that have legalised same-sex marriage or partnership, Reuters reports.
Lithuania, alongside Russia, Bulgaria, Poland and Ukraine, saw acceptance of gay and lesbian people decrease between 2002 and 2016, judging by the results from the biannual European Social Survey.
The study did not show that a decrease in homophobia resulted directly from legalizing same-sex marriage, but legislation can play a role in normalising same-sex relationships, Takasc told Reuters.
“It highlights the role of the state. It’s a great responsibility of our politicians how they lead us, and what kind of messages they sponsor,” Takacs said.
Sixteen out of 48 European countries recognise same-sex marriage, according to the LGBT+ advocacy group ILGA-Europe, and 21 do not allow same-sex couples to marry or form civil partnerships.
Among the Baltic states, Estonia is the only one to have legalized same-sex civil partnership, but not marriage.
Several partnership bills have been drafted by Lithuanian legislators, but none of them advanced far towards passing.
The Baltic Pride march in Vilnius this June drew 10,000 participants, according to the organisers.