Renew Europe expels Lithuanian MEP over homophobic remarks

Renew Europe leader Dacian Ciolos during the EP session on the occasion of the inauguration of US President Joe Biden on 20 January 2020. [European Parliament Multimedia Centre]

Centrist European Parliament grouping Renew Europe on Wednesday (20 January) voted to expel a Lithuanian MEP over homophobic remarks he made in a video on Facebook.

Viktor Uspaskich, a leader of the Baltic state’s populist Labour party, sparked outrage last week after footage of him calling gay or transvestite people “perverts” was published online.

The politician sent a letter to Renew leaders in the European Parliament after they demanded an explanation in which he apologised for causing an “uproar”.

Lithuanian MEP apologises in homophobia row

A Lithuanian MEP accused of homophobia apologised on Wednesday (13 January) after fellow lawmakers threatened to expel him from the liberal Renew grouping in the European Parliament.

But he said his comments had been taken out of context or lost in translation — and doubled down by insisting he still had the right to criticise people who “lead a perverted way of life”.

That did not cut it with his colleagues in the liberal political grouping and on Wednesday they announced they had voted to terminate his membership “with immediate effect”.

“There is no place for homophobia in the Renew Europe family,” said Dacian Cioloș, president of Renew Europe.

“Mr Uspaskich’s comments are incompatible with the values we hold dear and put himself outside of our family.”

The anger in the European Parliament erupted just six weeks after a Hungarian MEP belonging to populist Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s Fidesz party was caught by police breaking Belgian coronavirus restrictions at an alleged gay orgy.

That MEP, József Szájer, a fierce proponent of anti-LGBT measures favoured by Orbán, resigned from the party and quit the European Parliament.

Caught in gay 'sex party' in Brussels, Fidesz MEP resigns

Hungarian MEP József Szájer apologised on Tuesday (1 December) following reports that he was caught trying to flee what was described as a 25-man gay orgy last Friday that was shut down by Brussels police for breaching COVID restrictions on large gatherings.

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