The European Court of Human Rights has found it a violation of freedom of expression to consider a fiction book that mentions same-sex marriage harmful to children, Politico reported.
Restricting children's access to such information had no purpose that could be recognized as legitimate, the court said in its ruling.
The case pitted the Lithuanian government against the author of a collection of fairy tales whose storyline in some cases revolved around same-sex marriage. (for example, a passage in one of the books describes a princess and a cobbler's daughter sleeping in each other's arms after a wedding.)
Distribution of this book was halted shortly after publication, in March 2014. A year later, the book was distributed with a label warning that its contents might be harmful to children under 14.
The author filed a civil suit against the publisher in Lithuania, arguing that references to same-sex relationships could not be considered harmful to children. After her lawsuit was dismissed by Lithuanian courts at all levels, she filed a lawsuit with the ECHR in November 2019. In 2020, she died.
In its ruling, the court found that the measures against the complainant's book were intended to limit children's access to information depicting same-sex relationships as equivalent different-sex relationships. This, according to the court, violated Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which deals with freedom of expression.
The court was not convinced by the Lithuanian government's argument that the book represented same-sex families above others.
On the contrary, the tales promoted respect and acceptance of all members of society in a fundamental aspect of their lives, namely committed relationships, the court said in its decision.