With Ukraine War Raging at Border, U.S. Ambassador to Lithuania Joins Pride Festival
One U.S. ambassador in eastern Europe took time out of America’s crucial work with NATO during Russia’s invasion to fully participate in a gay pride festival. Robert Gilchrist, ambassador to Lithuania, spoke at Baltic Pride 2022 in Vilnius, which ran from May 31-June 5.
“People ask me if, with the war in Ukraine, this is an appropriate time for an LGBTQI march,” said Gilchrist. “My answer to that is: absolutely!”
In addition to speaking, Gilchrist also hosted a brunch for the Baltic Pride festival at the ambassador’s residence and marched in the pride parade, carrying a rainbow banner, according to photos shared from the official twitter of the U.S. Embassy to Lithuania. He wore a t-shirt which read “love is love,” and featured silhouettes holding hands, including a man and a woman, a man and a man, a woman and a woman, and even a silhouette with a pointy tail, forked spear, and horns.
The embassy communicated this message in a tweet: “Thanks, #Lithuania, for #BalticPride2022 — a joyous, affirming celebration of LGBTQI+ rights & a celebration of all people — a celebration of our shared values. #HumanRights are #LGBTQI+ rights, equality for all!?? We were proud to be part of it!”
The embassy also tweeted a video of Gilchrist raising a complex version the progress flag at his residence on the same flagpole as the American flag. His version of the flag also included a yellow triangle for intersex people on the progress flag, which adds five extra stripes to the pride flag to represent people who identify as transgender, among other categories.
Lithuania is the southernmost of the three Baltic states, which were formerly occupied by the Soviet Union but are now part of the NATO alliance. On the southwest, it borders the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad. On the southeast it borders Belarus, another former Soviet state from which Vladimir Putin launched his February offensive against Kyiv, Ukraine.
Gilchrist’s pro-LGBT activism does not seem designed to appeal to the values of Lithuanians at large. During his confirmation process, Gilchrist submitted as a written answer for the record, “According to the U.S. Department of State’s 2018 Human Rights Report, societal attitudes in Lithuania toward lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex persons (LGBTI) remain largely negative.”
Gilchrist was appointed as Ambassador to Lithuania by President Trump in 2019. During a hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) asked him, “as you assess the challenge — challenges facing Lithuania, do you see Russia as a threat? And what kinds of actions do you see Russia engaging in in Lithuania that would be of concern to the country?”
Gilchrist responded, “I think Lithuania is certainly a valuable ally, and one of our staunchest allies along the eastern frontier of the alliance. Lithuania, over the past decade, has seen a number of challenges from Russia as the Russian government has increased military spending and as they have increased their attention towards the Baltic states. I think one of the biggest challenges has been Russian disinformation. …”
Joshua Arnold is a staff writer at The Washington Stand.