Gay Latvia News & Reports 2001-06

1 Latvians Urged to Join ‘Struggle Against Homosexuality’ 11/01

2 Gay marriage message spreads to Baltic States 11/03

3 First LGBT Pride March in Riga to go ahead 7/05

4 Protests disrupt Latvia gay march 7/05

5 Latvia is “increasingly homophobic” 12/05

6 Latvia’s Parliament blocks gay marriage12/05

7 Latvian President Vetoes Rights Bill After Gay Protections Stripped 6/06

8 Latvian president vetoes labor bill that excludes equal rights for homosexuals 6/06

9 Gay Pride Meeting Under Siege In Riga Today By Fascists, Violence Used 7/06

10 Riga Pride: Gay bashers arrested after parade attack 7/06

11 Gay Pride Parade Banned in Riga 7/06

12 Latvian lawmakers ban gay workplace bias 9/06

13 Latvian Human Rights Boss Under Fire For New Homophobic Remarks 12/06

Gay Today

November 21, 2001

Latvians Urged to Join ‘Struggle Against Homosexuality’

Essayists to Explore ‘Satanic’ Aspects of Same-Sex Love; Anti-Gay Hysteria Ignited by Large Publishing Company

by Juris Ludvigs Lavrikovs
Summary: Two weeks ago the publishing company Vieda announced a scandalous competition for the best composition on the subject "Latvia without homosexuality." The company invited pupils, students, and any Latvian resident to take part in the "just struggle against homosexuality." The language used by the company is extremely hysterical and offensive.

The Latvian National Human Rights Office (LNHRO) stated that the topics suggested for the competition are "discriminatory and humiliating." The Office indicated it might call on the Public Prosecutor’s Office to launch a criminal investigation against the organizers. Mr. Bruvers, the Director of the Office, said that in a democratic society everybody has a right to expression, including regarding homosexuality, but no one has a right to offend persons who are different.

Mr. Garda, the Director of Vieda, immediately began an offensive campaign against Mr. Bruvers and the Latvian Human Rights Office, suggesting that Latvia is the only country in the world where non-homosexuals are oppressed and ‘abnormality’ is supported and promoted.

The latest and most shocking development is that a small number of members of the Latvian Parliament, including two members of the Parliamentary Human Rights Commission, have joined the ‘crusade against homosexuals.’ Latvian lesbian and gay organizations have sent a letter of protest demanding that these MPs quit their positions in the Human Rights Commission or be excluded from its work for manifestly anti-human rights activities.

Vieda’s Competitions Earlier this year Vieda organized another competition on the topic of the ‘decolonization’ of Latvia. That competition and Vieda’s activities promoting anti-Russian sentiment were heavily criticized by Russia and Europe. This time Vieda has announced its "just struggle against homosexuality." The suggested topics speak for themselves: ="Do we want to experience homosexual ‘families’?"
="Will we have be clear-minded and courageous enough for once to unite and stop the dissemination of homosexuality?" ="Isn’t it high time we eliminated homosexuality?"
="Homosexuality – a norm or Satanism?"
="The law should ban homosexuality, shame and disgrace of humanity."
="Does Latvia need to join the European Union that blasphemes the Holy Spirit by permitting same-sex marriages?" ="Homosexuality as a sign of degeneration and herald of the end of the world."

The organizers are planning to award the winner 100 Latvian Lats (US$145), publish the best submissions and send them to the Pope, the U.N., UNESCO, the Latvian President and the Latvian Prime Minister.

Mr. Garda, in his article on a right-wing Latvian website (, states that homosexuality is in contradiction with Holy Scripture and that homosexuals engaging in a sexual act sacrifice themselves to Satan and therefore become agents of Satan, and no better that Satan himself. He goes on to say that not only is homosexuality itself dangerous, but also society’s tolerant attitudes towards homosexuality.

In his view tolerance towards homosexuality demonstrates that society’s basic moral principles have been devalued and that our civilization is close to its end, similarly to Sodom and Gomorrah, the Roman Empire etc. Position of the Latvian National Human Rights Office The first reaction from the Latvian Human Rights Office was that if the Office receives complaints about Vieda’s competition it may call on the Public Prosecutor’s Office to launch a criminal investigation against the organizers. In the view of the Office the topics suggested for the competition "undermine personal honor and respect and are discriminatory."

The Latvian National Human Rights Office is an independent State institution and its functions are very similar to those of an Ombudsman. The Office’s views and opinions are purely advisory and are not legally binding. The Office has a long history of supporting lesbian and gay rights in Latvia and for this reason is regarded as a controversial institution by a few members of the Parliament and by some members of the public. The Office has submitted a number of proposals for inclusion of sexual orientation in Latvian anti-discrimination legislation, delivered its opinion on discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation in a case in which a gay policeman was dismissed solely because of his sexuality, conducted research on lesbian and gay rights, and submitted proposals for a partnership law to the Parliament.

Mr. Bruvers, a devout Christian and a family man, who is an ordained Baptist minister, had to abandon his right to preach as a Baptist minister following pressure from the leaders of the Latvian Baptist Church who suggested that his support for lesbian and gay rights contradicts Church doctrine.

Following heated discussion around Vieda’s competition, the Office delivered its response. According to the Office, the right to free expression is one of the basic rights in a democratic society and is guaranteed by the Latvian Constitution, the European Convention on Human Rights and other international human rights treaties. This right includes not only information and ideas that are positive, neutral and inoffensive, but also those that shock, offend and disturb some members of society.

At the same time, the Office stressed that this right is not absolute and can be restricted in cases where the rights of others are endangered, for example, the right to privacy or personal safety. The Office referred to case law of the European Court of Human Rights that restricts the right to expression when that expression is humiliating and offensive.

The Office further considered whether the organization of the competition "Latvia without homosexuality" is a violation of human rights. The Office noted that although it supports any discussion on the topic, the competition in question allows only those who oppose homosexuality to take part in it and therefore this is not a discussion about but against homosexuality. However, the Office does not consider that the organization of such a competition is per se a violation of human rights.

Nevertheless, the Office notes that those of the competition’s topics that associate homosexuality with Satanism and characterize it as a sign of societal degeneration promote intolerance in Latvia. The Office stated that if a society becomes less tolerant towards a particular group of people, those people’s rights could be endangered. The Office concluded that calling homosexuals ‘degenerates’ is a violation of human rights: the right to expression does not protect Mr. Garda’s statements and he has also overstepped the limits of ethical norms.

The Office referred to case law of the European Court of Human Rights which identifies a person’s sexual orientation as a part of that person’s private life. References were also made to recent developments within the European Union to fight discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation and Latvia’s obligation to implement EU anti-discrimination standards. The Office stated that Latvia cannot ignore its international obligations, isolate itself and introduce its own standards.

The Office also drew attention to the 1991 decision of the World Health Organization to delete homosexuality from the classification of mental illnesses and made it clear that Latvia should not make its own innovations. The Office stated that every person’s right to privacy should be respected and that tolerance should be promoted within society, this being an important guarantee of the observance of human rights. The Office pointed out that there is only one step from intolerance to discrimination.

The Office further touched upon the issue of how human rights violations can be remedied in Latvia. The Office referred to Article 158 of the Latvian Criminal Law, which provides that a person may be held criminally responsible if that person disseminates humiliating and offensive material. However, that Article relates more particularly to a situation where an individual person’s honor and respect have been undermined. The Office also noted that cases of such a nature very rarely receive the courts’ consideration. The Office noted that current legislation and practice do not provide effective remedy for similar cases where a group of persons seek to sue a person for undermining their honor and respect. The Office stated that, in any event, people who feel offended can submit a complaint to the Office, but pointed out once again that the Office’s opinions are not legally binding and can only resolve disputes by way of amicable settlement.

During the last few days the Office has received a number of complaints from lesbians and gay men concerning the competition organized by Vieda. Vieda and its Director Mr. Garda reacted extremely hysterically, with an outpouring of offensive comments regarding the Latvian National Human Rights Office and its Director Mr. Bruvers personally. Their main slogan was "Latvia is the only country is the world where non-homosexuals are persecuted." Anti-gay crusade is joined by ‘human rights’ MPs The latest, and even more disturbing, development is that three members of the Latvian Parliament, Mr. Juris Vidins (member of the P arliamentary Commission on Human Rights and Public Affairs), Mr. Peteris Tabuns (Secretary of the Parliamentary Commission on Human Rights and Public Affairs) and Mr. Janis Leja, have released a statement in support of the ‘just’ fight against homosexuality.

They referred to the discussion around Vieda’s competition and stated that expression of one’s opinion cannot be considered a violation of human rights. In the MPs’ view opinions regarding fundamental issues can differ, but then one view will be based upon a lie. The MPs stated that they categorically oppose ‘unlimited dissemination’ of ‘pederasty’ (this is how the MPs refer to homosexuality), pornography, drug abuse and alcoholism being regarded as an achievement in terms of human rights. They stated that ‘pederasty’ has always been and remains a deviation from normal human development and that its occurrence therefore deserves pity and sympathy, but does not deserve support, promotion or propaganda for this abnormality in the mass media, schools or public bodies of any kind. In their view it is absurd to regard tolerance of such a ‘mental deformity’ as a sign of civilized and modern society of the 21st century.

They further stated that they support those young people who take a firm stand against any ‘slackness’, including ‘pederasty’. They called upon healthy-thinking members of society to take even firmer steps and to be united in eliminating further dissemination of ‘pederasty’ and other forms of mental deformity and degeneration. The MPs stated that ‘pederasty’ promotes the spread of AIDS, a decreasing birth-rate, the break-up of families, and the deterioration of society’s spiritual and physical health.

Reaction of the Latvian lesbian and gay community Latvian lesbian and gay organizations have sent a letter of protest to the three members of Parliament who released this statement, calling on them to quit their work in the Commission, and a letter addressed to the Parliament and to the Parliamentary Human Rights and Public Affairs Commission demanding that these MPs be excluded from the work of the Commission. The letter expressed disbelief and shock that persons working to protect human rights could allow such statements of hate which absolutely contradict the ideals of human rights and tolerance. UK

27 November 2003

Gay marriage message spreads to Baltic States

While countries such as the USA and Canada are debating the merits of same sex marriage, the message of equality is starting to spread eastwards, to the Baltic States. Two Latvian gay men are set to mark their relationship next month, with a ceremony that will not only confirm their relationship together but also bring the issue to the forefront of the Baltic region. Although a priest will conduct the wedding, it will not be legally recognised, as the country currently has no laws regarding civil unions or same sex marriages. At present, the country still sees homosexuality as a taboo, as an after effect of its previous Soviet rule.

But Oskars Krumins and Aigars Rubezis plan to go ahead with the ceremony, which will be conducted by a former priest, regardless of how society will treat the couple. They have enlisted Maris Sants to conduct it, as he was formally excommunicated from the Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church when he admitted his homosexuality. The announcement has already caused controversy in the country, with Latvian Family and Children’s Affairs Minister Ainars Bastiks telling news agencies that relationships between same sex couples are "unnatural" and shouldn’t be recognised.


July 22, 2005

First LGBT Pride March in Riga to go ahead–Latvian Court orders ban on Latvia’s LGBT parade 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.lvGay 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

Eriks Skapars
Executive Director of the Riga City
Ratslaukums 1
Riga LV 1539 Latvia

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

BBC News

23 July, 2005

Protests disrupt Latvia gay march

Latvian police have arrested protesters after they shouted insults and threw eggs at people taking part in the Baltic state’s first gay pride march. The few dozen marchers were outnumbered by hundreds of protesters who blocked the narrow streets of the capital.
Police were forced to alter the march route and to form a chain around the parade participants to protect them. The march had sparked outrage in Latvia and only went ahead after a court overturned a council ban on the event. Officials said that six of the protesters had been detained for their part in disrupting the march.

Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis had opposed the event, saying Riga should "not promote things like that". "For sexual minorities to parade in the very heart of Riga, next to the Doma church, is unacceptable," he told LNT television on Wednesday. One of those who took part in Saturday’s march, 61-year-old Lars-Peter Sjouberg, from Sweden, said he had been shocked by the offensive remarks made by protesters. "Protesters here were really aggressive […] but it won’t stop me from helping my Latvian friends fight for their rights."

Those marching were subjected to eggs being thrown at them and verbal abuse, press reports say. However, police officers were praised for keeping calm and arresting those opposing the parade. Organisers say the march was vital in ensuring equality and more rights for lesbian and gay people in the future. Revellers from Sweden, Russia, Lithuania, Estonia and Finland also joined in the event.


8 December 2005

Latvia is “increasingly homophobic”

by Ben Townley
As Latvia is announced as the first former Soviet republic to host a NATO summit, campaigners are calling for more action on the country’s increasingly anti-gay attitudes. Latvia will host the conference of some of the world’s most powerful leaders next year. But gay rights activists say the country should be criticised by these leaders for its stance on sexuality issues and a tide of homophobia. The European Parliament’s Gay and Lesbian Rights Intergroup says there is mounting evidence that homophobia is rising in the country.

It points to a recent vote that barred gay marriage with a constitutional amendment and called on the EU to openly criticise the country more. Gay marriage will be outlawed if the parliament votes in favour of the amendment once again. “Latvia is clearly moving backwards compared to the majority of European States,” the Intergroup’s vice-president Sophie in’t Veld said in a statement today.
“The European Parliament has to raise its voice against the right-wing and homophobic elements in European politics who would like to re-impose their backward and homophobic values on the rest of society."

The comments come after a renewed sense of urgency meets apparently anti-gay actions in new EU member states. Poland has been the focus of attention so far, after the government outlawed a gay rights march and senior politicians used homophobic language during a public meeting. Campaigners say that new states must adhere to the human rights documents that they agreed to during accession. “Despite the fact that Latvia is now a member of the EU, this constitutional ban of same-sex marriages is just one example of many of homophobia in the country", said Michael Cashman, MEP and president of the Intergroup.

He added “all member states must conform to EU law including laws which protect citizens’ Fundamental Rights and freedoms.”
“The Intergroup will do all it can to ensure that the EU law is respected and urge the Commission to act when violations occur."
The amendment was originally proposed earlier this year by the First Party of Latvia as a result of their homophobic campaign during and after the first LGBT Pride March in Riga.

The constitutional amendment needs to pass three readings in the parliament to be adopted. In the first reading, 65 of the 100 members supported the amendment, 5 MPs voted against and 20 abstained. At the second reading, 73 Latvian MPs voted to support the constitutional amendment, only 3 MPs votes against, while 12 MPs abstained and 2 MPs did not vote.


December 16, 2005

Latvia’s Parliament blocks gay marriage

Riga, Latvia – Latvia’s Parliament has passed a constitutional amendment that will ensure that gay couples cannot marry.

Same-sex marriage is already illegal under Latvian civil law, but the constitution will now explicitly state that marriage can only exist between a man and a woman. Latvia’s First Party says it introduced the change to the constitution in order to protect the traditional family from what it calls the "threat" of homosexual lifestyles, the BBC reported Thursday.

Members of Parliament said they were concerned that since Latvia has joined the European Union, EU laws will enable homosexuals to gain the right to marry. The move has been criticized by members of the European Parliament as well as international homosexual organizations and even Latvia’s own president, prime minister and foreign minister. With so many members of Parliament supporting the change, however, President Vaira Vike-Freiberga may be forced to sign it into law.

June 21, 2006

Latvian President Vetoes Rights Bill After Gay Protections Stripped

(Riga) Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga vetoed a labor protection bill on Wednesday for not including LGBT workers. The veto came following a meeting between members of the gay community and aides to the President. In returning the bill to Parliament, Vike-Freiberga included a terse note to Speaker Ingrida Udre saying that sexuality needs to be listed alongside discrimination based on race, gender, age, disability, religious or political beliefs.

The legislation was originally passed in 2004 as a condition of European Union membership and as required by the EU contained protections for gays. The law was never implemented and last week after a heated debate Parliament voted to remove the LGBT protections and pass the bill over to Vike-Freiberga to sign into law. (story) Debate on the amendment was filled with homophobia with members of the majority Christian Democratic Party calling gays "degenerate", "sick" and in need of being "cured".

The vote made Latvia the only EU member state without legislation specifically outlawing discrimination at work and in housing on the grounds of sexual orientation. Earlier this year Latvia amended its constitution to bar same-sex marriage.  Prime Minister Kalvitis was critical of his own party for stripping out the gay protections and earlier this week called on Vike-Freiberga to exercise her veto. In returning the bill to Parliament lawmakers can either add the gay protections or pass it again and resubmit it to the President. If she were to veto the bill a second time Parliament could then attempt to override the veto.

Associated Press

June 22, 2006

Latvian president vetoes labor bill that excludes equal rights for homosexuals

Riga, Latvia Latvia ‘s president on Wednesday vetoed a bill that amended the country’s labor laws to bring them in line with European Union standards but excluded a clause guaranteeing equal treatment of homosexuals in the workplace. In a letter to Parliament Speaker Ingrida Udre, President Vaira Vike-Freiberga underscored that employment rights cannot be tied to an individual’s private life, the president’s press office said. Vike-Freiberga, whose veto had been expected, said she saw a "logical reason” to list discrimination of gays alongside discrimination based on race, gender, age, disability, religious or political beliefs, as well as ethnic origin or social status.

Parliament must now rework the bill or vote for a second time to pass it in its current form, which would require a two-thirds majority in the 100-seat Parliament. Should Vike-Freiberga again veto the bill, the Parliament could finally override her second veto with a simple majority. Parliament last week strongly endorsed the bill – after a heated debate in which several lawmakers reportedly made homophobic remarks – but omitted a planned provision protecting homosexuals at the workplace. 

The Welfare Ministry and Latvia ‘s leading gay and lesbian rights organization, ILGA Latvija, both called on the president to veto the bill, saying it went against EU laws.  The bill was the latest in a series of actions targeting the small openly gay community in the former Soviet republic. In July, hundreds of demonstrators lined the streets of Riga’s old town and hurled debris and insults at a handful of marchers in the country’s first gay-pride parade. 


July 22, 2006

Latvian Gay Price meeting under siege in Riga today by fascists, violence used

Today in the Latvian capital of Riga, a crowd of fascists laid siege to and attacked a meeting called by the Latvian gay organization Mosaika  at the four-star Reval Hotel to celebrate Gay Pride, after the Pride March planned for today in Riga was banned on Wednesday this past week by the Riga City Council, a ban upheld on Friday by a Latvian court. But anti-gay fascist protesters laid siege to the hotel where some 100 gays and lesbians were meeting, and assaulted those trying to leave. The gay meeting attracted many journalists, who have also been targeted for assault by the protesters, who pelted them with eggs, bottles, and water.

Nicolas Alexeyev of — who was the organizer of the banned Moscow Gay Pride March, during which he was arrested (Alexeyev at left in photo of his arrest), a demonstration that was also broken up by fascists on May 27 — had gone to Riga in solidarity with Latvian gay activists to protest the ban on the Latvian Pride March, and Alexeyev this morning has been e-mailing a series of reports on the ongoing  siege of the hotel and the assaults, which were continuing as of the receipt of his latest dispatch at 9:09 AM EST. "Protesters are targetting anyone going out of the hotel.  Speeches continue inside the hotel quietly, as planned," wrote Alexeyev in his latest e-mail message. "Today, Latvia does not show the face of a modern and democratic country. Instead, Riga is showing the face of homophobic facism, threatening its citizens and their guests, including members of the European Parliament," wrote Alexeyev. "One of those assaulted was the openly gay pastor Rev Maris Sants. The police refused him protection as he went to his car, where he was attacked," Alexeyev said.

“People attending the press conference had to be rushed out into waiting vans to be ferried away from the baying homophobic crowd, ” said eye-witness Peter Tatchell of the British gay rights group OutRage. “Earlier at 1100 hours today, the church service Rev. Sants held in support of Riga Gay Pride was attacked by a dozen neo-nazis. Worshippers were pelted with shit and

rotten fruit. Despite previously requesting police protection, no police were present to protect the congregation. Dutch MEP (Member of the European Parliament) Sophie In’t Veld (photo right) was one of the worshippers prevented from leaving the church by the homophobic vigilantes," reported Alexeyev.

Agence France-Presse reported this morning  that, "An AFP reporter outside the Church of England protestant church in the heart of Riga said hundreds of anti-gay protesters had gathered as the service drew to a close, and chanted abuse at the 50 people inside. ‘Homosexuals are dirty sinners. They are immoral people and they don’t have a place in normal society," said Viktors Biese, leader of the Latvian national radical organisation ANSS. "We have to stop them now. We can’t wait until they start demanding the right to get married and adopt children,’ he told AFP."

"Around a dozen of the gay pride supporters, including a pastor, Juris Calitis, who led the service and remained in the church after most of the congregation had slipped out, were hit by eggs and bags of excrement as they left," according to the AFP dispatch.
According to Alexeyev’s dispatches, Dutch MEP Veld said of the siege and assault on the meeting in the hotel that "it’s putting Europe to the test….We see that some of our European governments are throwing human rights out of the window."  Veld added that "We need to speak louder or we will leave the floor to the bigots, to the extremes, to the ones who want violence. Tell your friends and family to speak out. That is just as important. I will go back the European Parliament and will make sure that the Parliament will speak out."

“The inaction of the Latvian police is scandalous. They seem to be doing the absolute minmum," said OutRage’s Tatchell.

24 July 2006

Riga Pride: Gay bashers arrested after parade attack

Riga – A total of 14 people have been detained for attacks on representatives of sexual minorities in the Latvian capital Riga on Saturday during the gay and lesbian pride festival. National Police spokeswoman Sintija Kajina told the Baltic News Service that 13 of the detainees face administrative charges, while a criminal proceeding will be started against one person who was detained. The charges stem from an attack on gay and lesbian people who attended a service at the Anglican Church in Riga as part of the Friendship Days festival held last week.

An angry crowd threw tomatoes, eggs, and excrement at people entering the church service. Later, they threw eggs and splashed water on a taxi in which Swedish participants of the Latvian gay festival were travelling to the airport. The taxi was chased on its way to the airport, and attempts were made to push it off the road.

Read more:
The Baltic Times

See also the following:
“Gay Activists Targeted at Riga Pride”
UK GayCity News

Report from the BBC
“Riga Gay Pride Under Siege by Fascists”

Live Coverage from Riga this last Saturday by

Sophie In’t Veld, Dutch member of the European Parliament:
“It’s Putting Europe to the Test”?

A moving first person description of what happened on Saturday in an open letter from Lars Grava, a founding member of Mozaika

Visit and support Latvia’s LGBT group and Pride Organizer Mozaika

Stephen Barris / ILGA

July 19, 2006

Gay Pride Parade Banned in Riga

Lawmakers in the post-Soviet Latvia banned a gay pride march in Riga, scheduled for July 22, the Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported. The Latvian authorities said the event was banned on public order grounds, claiming it is the “biggest security risk” since Latvia won its independence from the U.S.S.R. Riga’s city council explained the lawmakers had taken into consideration the opinion of the Interior Ministry, which said it feared violence and provocations.

Earlier this week, U.S. ambassador to the Baltic State, Catherine Todd Bailey, urged Interior Minister Dzintars Jaundzeikars not to cancel gay pride celebrations in the city, Latvian media reported Tuesday . On his part, local Russian Orthodox leader Nikolajs Tihonirovs called on the government to interfere and ban the parade. Following the meeting with the minister, Tihonirovs told reporters: “The event should not be allowed to happen at all as it offends the morals of Latvia’s population and every Christian. It is a challenge and provocation against our religions.”

Local neo-Nazi groups and nationalists threatened Latvian gays with violence, news agencies reported. ??Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell of OutRage! who plans to join Saturday’s march in solidarity with Latvia’s beleaguered but defiant lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) communities, said: “It is scandalous that a member state of the EU is giving in to threats and blackmail by religious fundamentalists and the far right.”

“It echoes the bad old days of Soviet tyranny,” added Tatchell. “The government of Latvia has a duty to resist threats of homophobic violence, protect its gay citizens and safeguard the right to peaceful protest. Riga Pride is a litmus test of Latvian democracy,” he said. Latvian police arrested a number of protesters at last year’s parade in the country.??Last month, the European Union passed a resolution to combat homophobia. Gay activists in Moscow were attacked last May after the Russian Gay Pride was banned and attendees of the Warsaw and Bucharest Gay Pride were threatened with violence.

Planet Out/Agence France-Presse

September 21, 2006

Latvian lawmakers ban gay workplace bias

Discrimination in the workplace against gay men and lesbians has been banned by lawmakers in Latvia, reversing an earlier decision that earned them sharp criticism at home and abroad, Agence France-Presse reports. Forty-six of the 84 lawmakers present in the 100-seat parliament for the session voted on Thursday in favor of an amendment to impose the ban, 35 against, and three abstained. The decision reverses a vote in June which failed to endorse a ban on discrimination against employees drawn from sexual minorities, drawing stinging attacks not only from human rights and gay and lesbian groups but also from Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis and President Vaira Vike-Freiberga, says AFP.

Kalvitis slammed parliamentarians’ alleged disregard for serious issues and accused them of intolerance, while Vike-Freiberga vetoed the legislation, telling parliament to review it to ensure that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is clearly banned in Latvia. The European Union commissioner for employment, social affairs, and equal opportunities, Vladimir Spila, also expressed concern. Janis Smits, from the centrist Latvia First Party, voted against the amendment, both in June and on Thursday.

" This ban means that a small, marginal group will be protected, while other groups of normal people can still be discriminated against," Smits, whose party claims to support Christian and family values, told AFP. In the first vote on the amendment in June, Smits had said that including a ban on discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation would "open the floodgates to pederasty, lesbianism, pedophilia, zoophilia, and will legalize other pathologies."

December 5, 2006 

Latvian Human Rights Boss Under Fire For New Homophobic Remarks

by Newscenter Staff
Riga – The head of Latvia’s human rights committee says gays and lesbians should not be covered by the law because they are not a legitimate minority and could choose to be heterosexual. Barring that, said Janis Smits at a press conference, they should keep their sexuality behind closed doors. Smits, a leading member of the ultra-right First Party was elected to the post by Parliament last month. In his first interview with the media since becoming committee chair he said that homosexuality is a consequence of human lewdness and a sin that might cost people eternal life, the Baltic News reports.

He went on to call on gays to "return from their sins" and "recover normal sexual orientation." But he told reporters that even though he does not believe gays should be covered by human rights law he will uphold legislation giving homosexuals the same rights and obligations as other Latvian citizens. “The only thing I can do is call on these people to return from their sins, be healed by God and recover normal sexual orientation. I am consistent," Smits said.

"I do not call for any activities against homosexual people. God loves all his creatures, also those who have sinned, and all the people need the grace and forgiveness of God.”  Smits’ election to head the human rights committee is seen as a stinging rebuke of President Vaira Vike-Freiberga over her support of LGBT rights. In Parliament earlier this year he led the attack on labor legislation to include protections for gay and lesbian workers.  In a speech to lawmakers he called the bill "the legalization of sexual perversions". In June he rushed through amendments to the bill overhauling labor law in Latvia to strip out the gay inclusion.

The vote made Latvia the only EU member state without legislation specifically outlawing discrimination at work and in housing on the grounds of sexual orientation. When the measure arrived on Vike-Freiberga’s desk she refused to sign it and sent it back to Parliament with a terse message that sexuality needs to be listed alongside discrimination based on race, gender, age, disability, religious or political beliefs. Sexuality was inserted back into the bill and it narrowly passed. The president then signed it into law. But since then right-of-center parties have sought vengeance.