Activists in Lithuania have launched a new map celebrating inclusive and LGBTQ-friendly businesses across the country’s major cities.
Some 20,000 free copies of the latest Friendly City maps have been distributed across the capital city of Vilnius and second city of Kaunas.
It’s the sixth time that the map has been released, but also the first edition to be officially backed by the city’s mayor. The map is already available at tourist information points across both cities.
“Vilnius is a city friendly to all, welcoming and open minded. These aren’t just empty words: these have been core Vilnius values for centuries,” Mayor Remigijus Šimašius said at Friendly Map’s latest launch event. “Our city has been a haven of tolerance since Grand Duke Gediminas wrote his famous letters inviting other Europeans to settle here. My thanks go to all those who are ensuring that people will feel welcome in your cafes, shops and hair salons. I thank all of you for spreading love, setting a great example and creating a free and open Vilnius.”
Friendly City founder, filmmaker Romas Zabarauskas, launched the initiative back in 2012 in a bid to boost LGBTQ visibility. He has since added other categories, including shops and restaurants which have wheelchair access or gender neutral bathrooms.
“For me, having the Mayor of Vilnius himself at our event was a symbolic and important step. It shows that the attitudes in Lithuania are changing for the better, and our leaders finally understand the power of inclusive society,” Zabarauskas told The Calvert Journal.
“As for the current situation of LGBTQ people in Lithuania, it's very complex. In terms of laws, we are of course far from equality. But we have the freedom of speech — and we constantly use it to speak up, come out, and fight for our equality. I think this is a story of inspiring success — but it’s still a long way until we fully reach it.”
To see Friendly Maps’ full listing of clubs, bars and services, visit the group's website here.
If you haven’t already, check out Being LGBTQ, our special report exploring and celebrating LGBTQ life across the New East.