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First LGBT Pride March in Riga to go ahead

in LATVIA, 22/07/2005

A Latvian Court has ordered that a ban on Latvia's first LGBT Pride march be lifted.

The ban was put in place at the instigation of Prime Minister Kalvitis, who had earlier issued a statement that he "as head of the government, cannot accept that a parade of sexual minorities takes place in the middle of our capital city next to the cathedral".

His action followed two weeks of homophobic campaigning against a permit for the march issued by the Riga City authorities, and resulted in the withdrawal of this permit on 20th July. The campaigning was led by the Evangelical Lutheran and Catholic churches, various members of the Latvian Parliament, and several extreme right-wing nationalist organisations.

The full judgement of the Court will be published on 1st August. However the initial statement by the judge indicated that the Riga City authorities had failed to demonstrate adequate grounds for withdrawing the original permit.

The ban was the fourth attempt by authorities in East Europe this year to prevent Pride marches taking place, but the first initiated by a national government figure. The previous attempts, in Moldova, Romania and Poland, were all instigated by city mayors.

The ban would have been a blatant violation of Latvia's human rights obligations both as a member of the European Union, and under the European Convention on Human Rights.

The march will now go ahead tomorrow, Saturday 23rd July. But there are concerns for the safety of marchers. Open threats have been made to break up the march and a counter-demonstration by an extreme right-wing nationalist organisation has been authorised.

ILGA-Europe Board Member Deborah Lambillotte (Belgium) commented: "We congratulate the Latvian Gay and Lesbian Youth Support Group for successfully fighting this challenge. It is encouraging that the Latvian court has upheld the rights of the LGBT community in the face of such pressure from the Prime Minister".

Co-chair of the board, Riccardo Gottardi (Italy) added: "Given the way in which the Latvian authorities have given in to homophobic demands, we are concerned for the safety of the marchers, and call on the government to take all measures to protect them".

ILGA-Europe contact: Juris Lavrikovs tel: + 371 672 4941
Notes for editors:

(1) ILGA-Europe is the European Region of the International Lesbian and Gay Association (ILGA) and world for human rights and equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people at European level.

(2) The outcome of the 3 other attempts to ban gay pride marches in East Europe this year was as follows: Moldova: march prevented, although ban subsequently overturned by a court; Romania: went ahead, with ban withdrawn after pressure on mayor from central government; Poland: went ahead “illegally” in defiance of ban.

For background information, visit gay.lv


Gay and Lesbian Youth Support Group outraged by the decision of the Riga City Executive Director to cancel his permission for the Pride March and shocked by the humiliating statements by various Latvian politicians

In the beginning of July 2005, the Latvian Gay and Lesbian Youth Support Group obtain a permission from Eriks Skapars, the Riga City Executive Director to organise a Pride March through the central Riga to celebrate the first ever LGBT Pride in Latvian history.

Two weeks before the event, representatives of the Latvian Evangelical Lutheran and Catholic Churches, various members of the Latvian parliament, Latvian First Party and several extremist right-wing nationalistic organisations (Club 415 and Union of National Force) initiated a hysterical hate campaign against LGBT people and demanded the Riga City Executive Director to cancel earlier issued permission for LGBT Pride to march through the Latvian capital. They also threatened to organise mass disorder events and to block the Pride March. Initially the Riga City Executive Director refused to cancel his permission and explained that all requirements for the Pride March were provided by the organisers. However in the morning of 20 July, Aigars Kalvitis, the Latvian Prime Minister came out with the following statement:

I, as a head of the government, cannot accept that a parade of sexual minorities takes places in the middle of our capital city next to the Dom Cathedral. This is not acceptable. Latvia is a state based on the Christian values. We cannot advertise things which are not acceptable to the majority of our society.

On the same day, following the Prime Minister?s statement, the Riga City Executive Director annulled his permission for the LGBT Pride March explaining that his decision is not discriminatory against LGBT people and purely motivated by the security reasons.

On the same day the Gay and Lesbian Youth Support Group, with a support from the lawyers of the Latvian Centre for Human Rights and Ethnic Study, submitted a complaint to the Administrative Court against the Riga City Executive Director?s annulment of their previous permission for the Pride March and it is expected the Administrative Court might deliver their judgement by Friday, 22 July 2005. In case the Administrative Court does not overturn the decision of the Riga City Executive Director to annul the permission for the Pride March, the organisers are planning to exhaust all necessary court instances in Latvia and to submit a complaint to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasburg.

Despite the outrageous ban, motivated by hysteric homophobic campaign, and real and serious threats of violence, the organisers decided not to obey and to go ahead with all planned events, including the Pride March. In case annulment will not be overruled by the Administrative Court, the organisers might be charged with up to 100 LVL (150 Euros) administrative penalties and the police might stop the Pride March. Other main events of the first Latvian Pride include:
?- conference on the issues of homosexuality and human rights, homosexuality and the church, and homophobia. It will take place in the building of the Latvian Integration Ministry at 11.OO on 23 July 2005, Blaumana iela 5a, 5th floor.
?- Ecumenical service at the Anglican Church of Riga at 17.00, Anglikanu iela 2, old town.

At the same time, according to the Latvian Radio, a permission to organise their anti-gay event was issued by the Riga City Executive Director to the Club 415.

Gay and Lesbian Youth Support Group is outraged by the decision of the Riga City Executive Director to cancel his permission for the Pride March and shocked by the offensive and humiliating statements by various Latvian politicians and representatives of the Latvian churches and right-wing extremist nationalistic organisations. We are very sad that in the XXI century in the country which became a member of the European Union over a year ago, the politicians and state authorities feel comfortable to express and support extreme homophobic statements and do not take any action to provide security, honour and rights to Latvian LGBT people. Pride March ban by the Riga City Executive Director is shocking and demonstrates that democracy in Latvia is still very fragile. This situation also shows that hate and prejudice are well and alive in Latvia

Therefore we call upon all of you not just to read this news but to take action and to disseminate this news and to express your outrage and protest against state-supported homophobia and to demand that the Riga City Executive Director cancel his ban on the first ever Pride March in Riga. We also ask you to write your protest e-mails and letters to the Latvian Prime Minister and demand his apology as well as asking him to use his position and influence to allow the Pride March.

Aigars Kalvitis
Prime Minister of the Republic of Latvia
36 Brivibas Boulevard
Riga LV 1520 Latvia
vk@mk.gov.lv

Eriks Skapars
Executive Director of the Riga City
Ratslaukums 1
Riga LV 1539 Latvia
ivars.maurins@rcc.lv

For more information in English please contact:
Juris Lavrikovs
Information and Communication Officer of ILGA-Europe (European Region of the International Lesbian and Gay Association, currently in Riga)
tel: + 371 672 4941
jlavrikovs@hotmail.com

More information about Riga Pride 2005

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