1 Latvian Homophobes Getting Fired Up – Fire Off Manifesto Against Gays 2/07
2 Latvian conservatives begin Pride backlash 3/07
3 Riga Pride attacker to be prosecuted 4/07
4 Riga mortis- going gay in Latvia 4/07
5 No Pride? Gay Latvia bites back 4/07
6 Cardinal Warns "Gay" Pride Parade 5/07
7 Riga Pride gets more international support 5/07
8 Gay pride parade to attract international audience 5/07
9 Latvian Extremists Demand Cancellation Of Gay Pride 5/07
10 Riga Pride 2007: Celebrating rights, fighting prejudice 5/07
11 Gay rights activists gather in Latvia for pride parade 6/07
12 Gay pride parade in Riga takes place peacefully amid police presence 6/07
13 Peaceful Gay Pride in Riga Riot police keep protestors at bay 6/07
15 Cardinal Wants Gays Banned From Public Office 12/07
16 Two EU cities refuse to sign gay rights appeal 3/08
17 Latvian Pride marchers ‘fenced off’ for own good 4/08
18 Gay Latvian Media Commentator on ‘Semi-Minister’ Kastens’ Outburst 4/08
19 Riga Pride marchers "heroes and warriors" says MEP 4/08
19a Latvian President Calls for Tolerance, Understanding on Gay Issues 8/08
20 Heavy security as protesters outnumber gays at Riga Pride 6/08
21 Rainbow flag flies over British embassy in Riga 6/08
22 First Baltic Pride will be celebrated in Riga next year 12/08
February 7, 2007 – queerty.com
Latvian Homophobes Getting Fired Up – Fire Off Manifesto Against Gays, History
Boy oh boy, those Latvian homophobes sure are go-getters. It’s over four months until the small nation celebrates its gay pride, but they’re already rounding up their rectum-revolted masses. Via our homo-homies over at UK Gay News comes a literal translation of a manifesto they published in the free daily, Ritdiena in which they take a stand against the so-called homo pederasts, gay friendly politicians and the pro-gay newspaper, Diena. Here’s an excerpt:
Ladies and gentlemen – do you have gunpowder in yourselves? Of course you do. [We’ve] called on activists to help organise a demonstration against pederasts and pederast ideology. In just one day, more than 250 activists rang us… Thank you to all of you. Enormous, enormous thanks! No investment will be forgotten. No one is unnecessary in the people’s fight against pederasts and pederast ideology.
O, nation, wake up to a new Renaissance!
Readers, boycott and call on your fellow citizens to boycott the newspaper Diena, the main source of propaganda for pederasts and pederasty in Latvia! Don’t buy the newspaper Diena! Don’t subscribe to the newspaper Diena! Cancel your subscription to the newspaper Diena!
Forward, reader! Toward a new Renaissance!
Hmm, it’s been a while since we opened a history book, but we seem to recall the Renaissance having something to do with a revival of arts, science and other assorted cultural movements. How, then, can boycotting a paper and enforcing social stagnation be like a new Renaissance? Perhaps something got lost in translation.
Also, we know their t-shirts are spreading a message of intolerance, but we’d give anything for one of our very own. Okay, well, maybe not anything, but at least a blow job: our preferred method of payment.
12 March 2007 – PinkNews
Latvian conservatives begin Pride backlash
by PinkNews.co.uk writer
Christian groups in Latvia have welcomed fundamentalist US preachers and to the country and talked tactics about opposing gay rights. They were addressed by Kenneth Hutcherson, who runs a ‘super-church’ in Seattle and is a vehement opponent of gay rights. He told the Latvians that homosexuality was spreading rapidly, and that the "gay lobby" had increasing political influence across the world.
"We need to do everything to that even in the European Union it does not loose its principles. It is a holy right of any nation to decide I what society to live," he told the assembled crowd, which included senior MPs. Latvia joined the EU in 2004.
In a related development, an organisation called "No Pride" has written to Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Tony Blair to complain about Mayor of London Ken Livingstone. Mr Livingstone has pledged his support for the Riga Pride event, and London Pride has twinned with Riga as a show of solidarity. Mr Livingstone last week called on the new Mayor of Riga to ensure the safety of Pride marchers. In 2006, the march was attacked and missiles and human excrement were thrown at participants.
"No Pride" complained to Tony Blair: "Each nation’s citizens have a right to choose the way their country develops and it is unacceptable that civil servants of the United Kingdom interfere with the Latvia’s internal affairs. We consider unacceptable London Mayor Ken Livingstone’s alongside organisation ILGA Europe actions supporting and escalating the conflict in the Latvian society between traditional values and supporters of homosexuals’ rights, by stating their support for Riga Pride 2007.
"We ask Ken Livingstone, Mayor of London … and LGBT people to respect the views of Latvian society and their right to self-determination and sovereignty. Propagating and supporting radical foreign groups with totalitarian characteristics you shamelessly breach the choice of citizens of the sovereign state of Latvia’s to live in free and democratic nation. All such activities are criminally punishable in Latvia."
Gay and lesbian protesters were refused permission to march in Riga on the 22nd July 2006 by city officials, who cited security advice from the interior ministry. The US ambassador to Latvia had earlier met with interior minister to urge him to allow the march to go ahead, but he refused. A group of around 50 activists instead held a service of tolerance at a local Anglican church.
Hundreds of neo-Nazi skinheads, ultra-nationalists and members of the Orthodox church besieged the church, pelting the activists with excrement. It was reported that local police stood and watched as events unfolded and declined to intervene. The new Mayor of the Latvian capital has publicly backed the gay rights march in the city later this year.
In an interview with Diena newspaper earlier this month Janis Birks said he was ashamed at events last year and called for tolerance and understanding on all sides. "The problem is not in the march but sexual orientation," said Mr Birks. "We need to have discussion within society. What happened on the side of sexual minorities and the other side, I think we need understanding from both sides." Mr Birks said that if security could be provided, the march could go ahead.
Ken Livingstone, welcomed his Latvian counterpart’s comments, but urged Riga authorities to do more to protect gay people on the march. "Security is something that is under the control of the authorities," said Mr Livingstone. "It is their duty to ensure that demonstrators are able to exercise their right to peaceful protest.
Last month London Pride announced they would be "twinning" with Riga Pride as a sign of solidarity. Chair of Riga Pride Kristine Garina said she was delighted by the agreement to twin with London: "We hope that this will have a real impact on the overt homophobia in our city. "Riga Pride and Pride London hope that as many people as possible will travel from the UK to the beautiful city of Riga to help them celebrate their Pride festival from 30 May to 2 June and join the fledgling Pride parade on 2 June."
2 April 2007 – PinkNews
Riga Pride attacker to be prosecuted
by PinkNews.co.uk writer
A right-wing nationalist who allegedly orchestrated last year’s attack on a gay Pride march in Latvia is to be prosecuted for inciting public disorder. Viktors Birze, who heads the National Force Union, is to face charges in relation to events last July. Gay men and lesbians were refused permission to march in Riga on 22nd July by city officials, who cited security advice from the interior ministry.
A group of around 50 activists instead held a service of tolerance at a local Anglican church. Under the auspices of a "No Pride" movement hundreds of neo-Nazi skinheads, ultra-nationalists and members of the Orthodox church besieged the church, pelting the activists with excrement. It was reported that local police stood and watched as events unfolded and declined to intervene. 14 people were arrested, but magistrates imposed non-custodial sentences on the Pride attackers.
The regional prosecutor’s office now want Mr Birze and another man, Valdis Rosans, to face charges of "hooliganism in a group, causing bodily injuries and damage of property, and showing resistance to law enforcement authorities," The Baltic Times reports. The pair face up to seven years in jail if convicted. Pride London and the Mayor of London have signed a statement of unity with Riga Pride 2007 at a ceremony in the Latvian capital.
Riga Pride 2007 will be held from 30th May to 3rd June.
5 April, 2007 – uk.gay.com
Riga mortis- going gay in Latvia
by Stewart Who?
After a day spent twitching at the prospect of shit-slinging God-Nazis, it was definitely time to check out the Riga nightlife.
As I hailed a cab on the street, a brief wave of worry swept over me- inspired by the negative press we’d received.
“You don’t want to go to the Golden Bar,” said the driver, as he hurtled down a narrow, deserted street. “Why do you wanna go there?” he asked, obviously disgusted. When told it was where I was meeting friends, he tutted and huffed.
He might not be a cab driver, I suddenly thought. Maybe he’s an anti-gay, No Pride spy sent to kidnap gay journalists. “I take you to pussy bar,” he suggested quite forcefully.
Eventually, we pulled up outside Golden Bar & Club (33/35 Gertrudes Street, Riga LV-1011). It’s the city’s hippest gay bar, featuring a chill-out bar and disco room and a wide choice of wines and cocktails. Handsome proprietor, Anatolijs proved a genial host and most generous with his hookah, which he smoked with a grin. He spared me another strange cab ride by constructing a map of Riga using cutlery and sachets of coffee. Miraculously, it worked a treat.
The British gay press and the Latvian media gathered at the Reval Hotel for
a press conference the following morning. It was at this same hotel that No Pride demonstrators attacked members of Mozaika the year before. Despite our maliciously leaked itinerary, there were no protestors for this event. With my sleep deprived hangover, I was grateful for the lack of agro.
Mozaika announced the dates for their pride event this year (31st May-3rd June). Pride London representative, Jason Pollock read a message of support from London Mayor, Ken Livingstone and explained that EuroPride had brought 600,000 people and £1bn to the city. Strangely, following the conference, the Latvian media remained almost mute and asked very few questions.
Inspiration Riga sponsored our walking tour of Riga, which proved utterly fascinating. The country has beenpopulated since 9000 BC, which means a long, rich history is steeped in its soil. It’s rude and impossible to summarise Latvia’s life story in a paragraph, but over the years they’ve been occupied by Germany, Sweden and Russia.
This ethnic-cultural mix has produced a glut of beautiful people, several; bizarre traditions and stunning architecture. Unfortunately, there’s also residual resistance to embracing the human rights enjoyed by freewheeling Western Europe.
It’s quite possible that their sometimes angry nationalism stems from the fact that Latvia’s been under foreign rule from the 13th to 20th century. Having just about managed to shrug off the Russians, there’s a small contingent who’re worried about an invasion of EU queens.
The legacy of so much pillaging and uninvited settlement is a trail of architectural foot prints. The Old Town of Riga is akin to a historical ghost train, you rattle round a corner across crippling cobbles and into a medieval church. Looming amongst some of Europe’s most impressive Art Nouveau buildings are Soviet slabs of brutalist concrete. There are stories of heart-broken girls buried alive in the city’s walls, streets are made for a swirling vampire capes and cartoonish spires that punctuate the sky.
There’s no denying
Riga’s gorgeous, and it’s easy to understand why it’s sometimes referred to as ‘Paris of the north’. After the revolution of 1905 a distinctively Latvian variation of Art Nouveau developed, known as National Romanticism. Architects used traditional Latvian folk elements and natural building materials. Being largely ignorant of the Art Nouveau movement, the tour proved utterly gripping.
After the walking tour, given by a stunning lady who looked like a hot, young Carol Channing with the brains of Carol Voderman, we convened at the Reval Hotel for another reception. There was another round of wine and nibbles before Pride London and Mozaika formalised the twiningarrangement between the two organisations. Despite repeated invitations, Janis Smits, chairperson of the Latvian Parliamentary Human Rights Committee failed to show.After much hand shaking and wine slurping we went to dinner at Hotel Valdemars. Whilst wolfing down traditional Latvian pork with vegetable risotto, I chatted with Oskars Lukasins who’s on the board of Mozaika. It seems there’s a lack of communication between the gay Russians who live in Latvia and native Latvians. In some ways this is unsurprising as there’s some acrimony between the two communities.
About a quarter of the population is Russian-speaking and in addition to the grim memories of Soviet occupation is the current tension caused by the recent influx of Russian immigrants who’re streaming in to fill the gap left by emigrating Latvians.
After some drinks and a very strange puppet show at the Golden Bar, it was time to investigate Riga’s other bars. My first stop was Purvs (Matisa Street 60/62). Finding this place proved quite a challenge as it’s on a deserted street, and has no signage outside. Incidentally, this club suffered a bomb attack ten years ago by anti-gay activists. The Latvian National Democratic Party called it "a den of degenerates" and were widely suspected as being behind the culprits.
After being buzzed in, there was a long, uneven and creepy corridor that felt like the entrance to a dungeon. After getting past the unfriendly ‘face control’ the club turned out to be quite empty. The few punters there were enthusiastically dancing to horrid Baltic techno like their lives depended on it. I loved it.
The over zealous use of UV lights and paint added to the cave-like décor and made the club resemble a gay haunted house. Adding to the strangeness was a flyer on each table which seemed to be forbidding old women with bloody hatchets. The same strange notice was at the door. When I had the flyer translated, I was none the wiser. Literally, it says, ‘old midget trolls are not allowed to attack bar staff or punters with a gory axe’.
XXL (4, A. Kalniòa street http://www.xxl.lv/ENG/index.html) was right the other side of town, but in the city the size of Riga, that’s only a fifteen minute walk away. This bar was like a throwback to ‘70s Amsterdam with a twist of Latvian oddity. Tom of Finland figures frolicked on red walls and a loud, Latvian family were glugging sparkling wine at the bar. It may have been somebody’s birthday as they were singing uproariously and one of them was an 80-yr-old woman. The bar man looked like Patrick Swayze gone wrong and had a horrid mullet. Strangely, he was quite sexy. Unfortunately, he was straight, and kept making out with his smug, sloshed girlfriend.
Aside from the cheering drunkards, there were very few in the bar which meant the darkroom and sex cabins were empty. Apparently, it gets quite wild at the weekend and their “fairylike” shows have won awards at the Eros 2001 & Eros 2002 competitions held in Riga. Housed in the same building is Riga’s only gay hotel (A.Kalniòa iela 4, http://www.gayhotel.lv/eng/aboutus.html) and Latvia’s only gay sauna. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to investigate such novelties.
Despite, or even because of the anti-gay sentiments expressed by a few Latvians, Riga is certainly worth a visit. As an international community, we should all be supporting their forthcoming pride event and showing those homophobes that we won’t be bullied and the rest of the world is watching.
5 April, 2007 – uk.gay.com
No Pride? Gay Latvia bites back
At Stansted airport, Pride London’s Jason Pollock informed the collected gay press that details of our itinerary had been leaked in the Latvian media. This meant that potentially, we could be met by right wing homophobes, intent on destroying the concept of gay tourism before it had an opportunity to take root.
The headline in one newspaper read, ‘Are Brits and Ryanair Sponsoring Latvia’s Pederasts?’ The same article printed a list of our names and the organisations we were representing- yes, GAY.com made the front page.
To assist any self-appointed anti-gay terrorists, our hotel details, restaurant reservations and names of our sponsors were also publicised. This hate-fuelled feature wasn’t published in an underground pamphlet- but a widely read free-sheet, equivalent to London’s Metro. This development proved quite exciting and a bit worrying.
Last year, the anti-gay contingent had pelted Riga’s Pride marchers with excrement and stones. It was hard not to wonder what they had in store for us journalists, especially following our introduction as ‘pederasts’ in the national press.
The Ryanair flight to Latvia’s capital, Riga is about 2.5 hours and due to tight timing, after landing, we had to go straight to a reception at the British Embassy, hosted by the Ambassador Ian Bond.
Jokes about eating pyramids of Ferrero Rocher went out the window as we faced heightened security checks in response to potentially violent protests fuelled by our presence. Despite fears that the reception might be uncomfortable, boring or stiff- it proved highly entertaining, informative and actually quite moving.
Moving? Yes, British Ambassador Ian Bond welcomed the journalistic troop and other diplomatic guests with a rousing speech. Referring to the uber-gay guest list, he said: “I am fairly certain that this is the first time there has been such a gathering in this Residence. I view it, and the statement of unity to be signed tomorrow as further important firsts.”
The Ambassador went on to discuss the 35-year history of Pride in London, comparing the UK’s past struggles with the adversities faced by Latvia’s current LGBT community.
In reference to the media’s insensitive treatment of the issues, Mr Bond said: “I and some of my European colleagues have been accused by some parts of the Latvian press of interfering in Latvia’s internal affairs by supporting Mozaika and Rigas Praids (Riga Pride).
“I am sorry that some people feel that way about us; but I cannot apologise for defending European values of tolerance and inclusion- values to which Latvia has also subscribed, and which many senior figures in Latvia, including in the Government, have actively defended.”
US homophobes support Latvia’s hate campaign
Perhaps it was the physical and mental strain of flying Ryanair. Maybe it was seeing the extra police cars parked outside the Embassy to protect us. It could have been the fact that, Mr Bond’s speech was so unexpectedly heartfelt and rousing. Whatever the reasons- it was hard not to feel bristling gay pride, a wave of emotion and a protective affinity with Mozaika.
Mozaika is the 2-year old LGBT pressure group formed in response to the
events around Riga Pride 2005, when members of government, church leaders and the far-right fought for the march to be banned. 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.
In the two years since Mozaika formed, the struggle hasn’t got any easier, mostly due to the fact that their detractors have become determined to quash any further growth. Latvia has the dubious privilege of being the only country with an organisation solely dedicated to preventing gay pride marches.
‘No Pride’ is chaired by Igors Maslakovs, who recently wrote to Tony Blair, telling him not to fiddle in Latvian “internal affairs” following the decision of Pride London to twin with Riga Pride.
Maslakovs is also responsible for distributing a fine line in anti-gay fashions. Many of his followers at last year’s No Pride demo were wearing t-shirts that depicted a crude stick-man drawing of one man taking another from behind (illustrated at top of article).
This symbol was in a red circle with a diagonal line going through it- underneath, it said ‘No Pride’. Children as young as 8 were wearing the shirts at Riga Pride 2006. Mozaika’s Andrejs Visockis described these t-shirts over a glass of wine at the British Embassy.
“Could you get hold of one?” I asked, slightly tipsy and a bit excitable. “It would be great to wear, you know, as an ironic queer style gesture- flip the whole thing on its head and reclaim the slander.”
Andrejs looked at me rather blankly and said, “It wouldn’t work, you’d just look like one of them.”
That chilly observation shut me up. It became horribly clear that the Latvian gay community isn’t developed or secure enough to be performing cultural back flips or sporting tongue-in-cheek fashions. I felt ashamed, shallow and moronic for making such a suggestion in a country where they’re literally fighting on the streets.
The reception at the British Embassy was unexpectedly social, utterly fascinating and quite sobering. It was hard not to come away pondering how ungrateful we are for the freedoms we enjoy in London. Our city is awash with LGBT liaison police officers, an abundance of Pride events and an exhausting choice of clubs and bars to party in.
We can marry, dance in the streets and nonchalantly flick through the gay press while riding the tube. It became very clear on this chilly night in Riga that instead of yawning with a cynical lack of gratitude, we should be assisting our gay brothers and sisters in Latvia, and other countries where people have to fight to feel pride.
US homophobes support Latvia’s hate campaign
May 11, 2007 – LifeSiteNews.com
Latvian Cardinal Warns "Gay" Pride Parade a Foretaste of "True Military" Attack on Nation’s Values
by Peter J. Smith
Riga, Latvia, May 11, 2008 (LifeSiteNews.com) –
The Archbishop of Riga, head of Latvia’s Catholic Church, warned Christians this week that they must stand together and counter-demonstrate against the upcoming homosexual 2007 Riga Pride March in order to prevent the undermining of family values in Latvia. The Latvian newspaper, Ritienda published the open letter by Cardinal Janis Pujats, "Defending Family Values," where the Cardinal described homosexual behaviour as "total corruption in the sexual arena" and an "unnatural form of prostitution."
"One month from now, there will once again be the issue of tolerance towards homosexuality in the context of yet another attempt to organise a Pride march on June 3," the Archbishop of Riga stated in his letter, saying that the organisers of the Pride are "essentially demanding that people be tolerant toward this moral corruption".
"They are demanding not just tolerance, but also that sexual corruption be protected by law and popularised on the basis of special programmes in schools and other organised events," the Cardinal warned. "There would be no opportunity to object against legal events, because that would be seen as a manifestation of hatred. That’s how corruption grows into dictatorship." Pujats called on the government to protect "the values of the traditional family against the licentiousness of homosexuals" and stop "this foreign-inspired action, in which a handful of people with questionable morals try to force the institutions of government to accept their perverse views."
"It is important to make sure that the cunning proposal from the Pride people – that ‘sexual orientation’ be counted among minorities so as to award it lawful status – not be included in law." Cardinal Pujats pressed upon the need for the people to counter-demonstrate against the Pride marches in massive numbers in order to convince the Parliament not to cave into the demands of homosexuals by creating laws that "defend and propagandise" the homosexual agenda. "That would be a true military attack against the nation’s morality, religion and family values," Pujats insisted. "That is exactly what Pride organisers are seeking to provoke by returning to their complaints year after year."
"If there are 1,000 sexually crazy people acting foolishly [at the Pride march], then the people’s march in Riga should have at least 40,000 or 50,000," said the Archbishop. "That proportion would give the government and public thought enough reason to leave sexual perversion outside the law." The Riga Archbishop and other Christian leaders in Latvia have been uniting to confront the homosexual agenda. Last month Cardinal Pujats with representatives of the Orthodox, Pentecostals and other Christian groups attended an ecumenical meeting organised by Janis Vanags, Archbishop of the Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church on how to work together to oppose the encroaching homosexual agenda.
Currently, the new Mayor of the Latvian capital, Janis Birks, has given public backing to the 2007 Pride march in June and has said if he can provide security the march will continue. Ever since Latvia joined the European Union, it has been under constant pressure to adopt the EU’s pro-homosexual laws. Latvia’s President Vike-Freiberga is a strong defender of homosexual activism in the country, and in September 2006 successfully cowed the Parliament into banning discrimination on sexual orientation; a condition of membership in the EU. Pujats, who in the past has called the "sexual atheism" of homosexuality more dangerous than the Soviet atheism has warned that Christians "must not be passive" and that at this time in history "we cannot keep quiet."
"For all Christians whose faith is a matter of the heart, and for all others who love their families – you must be prepared to go out into the streets," the Cardinal stated. "Not to create disorder, but to offer a disciplined position in support of the government, because on this very important issue of morals, the government is on the side of Christians."
See related LifeSiteNews.com coverage:
Latvian Cardinal Warns Gay Militancy More Dangerous than Soviet Times
Latvian Parliament Overwhelmingly Supports Constitutional Protection for Traditional Marriage
Homosexual Activists in EU Parliament Vow to Oppose Latvian Pro-Family Measure
14th May 2007 – PinkNews
Riga Pride gets more international support
by Tony Grew
Human rights campaigners from across Europe are to attend next month’s Riga Pride. Last year the march was attacked and missiles and human excrement were thrown at participants. Gay and lesbian protesters were refused permission to march in Riga on the 22nd July 2006 by city officials, who cited security advice from the interior ministry. A group of around 50 activists held a service of tolerance at a local Anglican church. A gang of neo-Nazi skinheads, ultra-nationalists and members of the Orthodox church besieged the church, pelting the activists with excrement. A larger group protested outside an indoor Pride event in Riga.
Amnesty International has announced that between 50 and 100 of its members from eleven countries will take part in this year’s Riga Pride on 3rd June. A delegation of Swedish MPs and MEPs from across the political spectrum are also expected to march. Mayor of London Ken Livingstone has pledged his support for the Riga Pride event, and London Pride has twinned with Riga as a show of solidarity. Last week an open letter from Cardinal Janis Pujats, Archbishop of Riga, called on crowds of people to take to the streets of Riga to oppose Pride.
"If there are 1,000 sexually crazy people acting foolishly in the square of Pride, then the people’s march in Riga should have at least 40,000 or 50,000," he wrote. "That proportion would give the government and public thought enough reason to leave sexual perversion outside the law."
The Roman Catholic leader recommends holding the "provocative demonstration (Pride), in a location that is closed and limited some way – a garden or square." The new Mayor of the Latvian capital has publicly backed the 2007 gay rights march in the city.
May 23, 2007 – The Baltic Times
Gay pride parade to attract international audience
by Talis Saule Archdeacon
Riga – With the 2007 Friendship Days fast approaching, debate surrounding the pride parade, the culmination of the Friendship Days events to take place in Vermanes Park in downtown Riga, is heating up. The event, scheduled for June 3, is expected to draw hundreds of participants from all over Europe, as well as a crowd of protesters who will likely try to disrupt the event. Last year’s gay and lesbian event in Riga was canceled – a decision later ruled to be unconstitutional – though a group of sexual rights activists decided to meet informally. For their efforts, they were pelted by eggs and excrement, which sparked a wave of indignation among equal rights activists and gays and lesbians throughout Europe. This year the Riga Friendship Days and Pride 2007 will be a four-day affair, beginning May 31. It will include concerts, movies, presentations and exhibits. Human rights defenders and European lawmakers will be in attendance.
Latvia’s anti-gay community is not pleased. In an open letter published earlier this month in the Ritdiena tabloid, Cardinal Janis Pujats, the Catholic Church’s archbishop of Riga, called on people to protest the event and the government not to pass laws giving equal rights to homosexuals.
“For all Christians whose faith is a matter of the heart, and for all others who love their families – you must be prepared to go out into the streets,” the cardinal wrote. Pujats called on the government to protect “the values of the traditional family against the licentiousness of homosexuals” and stop “this foreign-inspired action, in which a handful of people with questionable morals try to force the institutions of government to accept their perverse views.”
Linda Freimane, director of Mozaika, a sexual minorities rights group in Latvia, stressed that the pride parade is not, in fact, a foreign inspired plot to destroy the Latvian family. Freimane said that she hopes the pride parade could help to change misconceptions about the gay community in Riga. “[We hope] to encourage the community itself to speak out,” she said. “As long as they don’t there is going to be this myth that homosexuals are just a handful of foreigners living in Riga, and people would not understand that these are Latvians and Russians who live among us.” Freimane noted that the position of some politicians only exacerbates the problem. “What happens is that you have a small number of extremely homophobic politicians, and you have a big number of silent politicians,” Freimane said. She noted that one of the worst politicians in that regard is ironically the current head of the parliamentary human rights committee, Janis Smits.
In last year’s parliamentary debate surrounding the inclusion of a sexual minority phrase in anti-discrimination laws, Smits compared homosexuals to a societal “plague.” He even went so far as to read a passage from the bible implying that homosexuality should be punishable with the death penalty. Last year’s events bode poorly for the upcoming friendship days. To be sure, the new interior minister, Ivars Godmanis, has promised to be more vigilant than his predecessor, who did not hide his hostile views toward gays and lesbians. Though police detained 14 individuals from among the anti-gay protest groups last year, they did nothing to prevent the overall threats of violence and often refused to provide safe passage for the gay rights participants from the three locations. The event threw Riga into the world spotlight and drew heavy international criticism. Freimane hopes that things this year will be better. “I think that this year it will be safe. The police are being very professional,” she said
May 30, 2007 – 365gay.com
Latvian Extremists Demand Cancellation Of Gay Pride
by 365Gay.com Newscenter Staff
Riga – Members of a broad spectrum of groups on the far right in Latvia staged a noisy demonstration in front of the Parliament on Wednesday demanding that lawmakers ban a gay pride parade scheduled for June 3. The groups included skinheads, extreme nationalists, neo-Nazis and churchgoers. More than 100 protestors shouted homophobic slogans and handed out T-shirts to passersby bearing anti-gay messages. It is the latest in ongoing battles between liberals and conservatives in Latvia.
Last year the capital city of Riga refused to grant a parade permit citing security reasons following a recommendation from Latvian Interior Minister Dzintars Jaundzeikars. Pride organizers organized a service at a local church instead of holding a parade. As they left the church dozens were attacked by an angry mob. They were pelted with bags of excrement and verbal abuse as police stood by watching. Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga denounced the violence and said that it was unacceptable for the Riga City Council to refuse the parade permit.
In 2005 gays went to court and got an injunction after the city also refused a parade license. The march was marked by violence and a number of protestors were arrested. The issue of LGBT civil rights also led to a showdown between Vike-Freiberga and Parliament last year. A labor law passed in 2004 as a condition of European Union membership and as required by the EU contained protections for gays was never implemented. In 2006 Parliament revised it stripped out the LGBT protections and sent it to the president for her signature.
Vike-Freiberga vetoed the measure returning it to Parliament with a terse message that she would sign it only when the protections were restored. After a heated battle in Parliament the clause was reinstated and the bill was signed into law.
May 2007 – Amnesty International
Riga Pride 2007: Celebrating rights, fighting prejudice
Amnesty International (AI) members from all over Europe will participate in Riga Pride 2007 in solidarity with the Latvian LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) individuals, who are facing widespread hostility and discrimination. The event — organized by Mozaika, a Latvian LGBT organization – starts on 31 May and will include speeches, workshops and parties, culminating with the march on Sunday 3 June. Worldwide interest in this year’s Riga Pride has been growing and international news channels will be covering the event. London Pride organizers have officially twinned with their Latvian counterparts.
Following two consecutive years of Riga Pride that have seen attacks on supporters of the march, the Latvian authorities must protect the right to freedom of assembly and ensure the safety of participants. These rights, as well as the right not to be discriminated against, must be respected not just on the day of the march but all year round. With your help, the call for equality for LGBT individuals in Latvia will be louder and more international than ever. Join us in Riga to add your voice.
If you have any questions on how to participate, send us an email:
UK enquiries: email@example.com
Netherlands enquiries: firstname.lastname@example.org
Other queries: email@example.com (don’t forget to tell us what country you live in)
Equality is a human right. Different people, same rights.
The history of Riga Pride: In 2006, Riga City Council banned the Pride march because of alleged threats of violence against participants. Three days later, people attending a church service held in support of Riga Pride were attacked by a large group of people who threw eggs and human excrement at them. Seven people were eventually sentenced to pay small fines for taking part in the attacks. In 2005, the Pride march was eventually allowed to go ahead following an initial ban, but participants were verbally and physically abused. Law enforcement agencies did not provide adequate protection.
June 2, 2007 – The Star Online
Gay rights activists gather in Latvia for pride parade
Riga, Latvia (AP) – Sexual rights activists from across Europe gathered in Latvia on Saturday, a day before a gay pride parade that is expected to face angry protests from conservative groups. Last year, an informal meeting of gay rights advocates in the Baltic country drew a crowd of irate demonstrators, some of whom threw eggs and excrement at the meeting’s participants. Latvian police, who were criticized for not preventing the attacks at last year’s meeting, have promised to be more vigilant during Sunday’s parade in a popular downtown park in Riga. Outraged by scenes of unrest last year, lawmakers and gay-rights advocates from across Europe have promised to attend the event Sunday, which will be Riga’s second gay pride parade after the inaugural march in 2005. Swedish Migration Minister Tobias Billstrom was also set to take part.
Linda Freimane, a board member of Mozaika, Latvia’s leading gay rights group, stressed the importance of this year’s gathering for sexual minorities’ rights in the Baltic states, which joined the European Union in 2004. "If we don’t do it again this year then we give in to the illegal, violent forces who can limit other people’s rights just by smothering them,” she said. Gay rights activists were concerned that a recent outburst of anti-gay violence in Moscow and a decision by city authorities in Lithuania to bar an EU vehicle promoting tolerance and diversity would motivate homophobic forces in Latvia. Authorities in Vilnius stopped the bus, which travels around Europe to inform citizens of the EU’s anti-discrimination laws, citing concerns that gay activists joining the campaign would be attacked by protesters. The European Commission issued a strong condemnation of the decision.
In Latvia, about 50 anti-gay activists _ including Christian groups and right-wing nationalists _ gathered Tuesday outside Riga City Hall to denounce the city’s approval of the pride parade. Participants wore their hallmark T-shirts suggesting sodomy should be banned. One protester was detained for assaulting two lesbians who had come to see the protest. The parade will be the culmination of a four-day series of events _ Riga Friendship Days and Pride 2007 _ that began on Thursday. Freimane said she was hoping for a calm gathering. "The state has to protect peaceful demonstrators,” she said.
June 3, 2007 – The International Herald Tribune
Gay pride parade in Riga takes place peacefully amid enormous police presence
The Associated Press
Riga, Latvia – Gay rights activists held a peaceful parade in the Latvian capital Sunday, with a massive police presence preventing angry protesters from disrupting the event. Several thousand anti-gay protesters held a separate event across town. The gay rights activists, numbering about 400, paraded around a fenced-in park in downtown Riga on a sunny day, while a crowd of some 100 protesters shouted homophobic taunts from surrounding streets. Some of the activists yelled back, but then moved along with the parade. After the parade, activists sang, danced and listened to speeches by European lawmakers. Afterward they were transported out of the area in heavily guarded buses.
Protesters tried throughout the day to enter the park but were turned back by police, who wore riot gear and had built a double perimeter around the site. Meanwhile, an alternative anti-gay concert — dubbed "The World Against Homosexuality" — was held about 1.5 kilometers (a mile) away on the riverfront and attracted several thousand supporters. Many participants wore T-shirts and carried balloons decrying "homosexual propaganda." Last year an informal meeting of gay rights activists in Riga attracted an irate mob of protesters, who threw eggs and excrement at the activists.
Latvian police took no chances this year, and Interior Minister Ivars Godmanis even stood on a balcony overlooking the park so that he could orchestrate the hundreds of troops providing security below. Police said two protesters were detained during the day for throwing firecrackers, while one girl said she was hit by an ice cream cone. Eight European lawmakers from various countries and two members of the European Parliament attended the gay-rights festivities in the Baltic state as a show of solidarity.
June 3, 2007 – UK Gay News
Peaceful Gay Pride Staged in Riga Amid Tight Security…Riot police keep protestors at bay
Riga – Around 1,200 people marched around the Vermanes Gardens at lunchtime as Riga staged, after two previous attempts, its Gay Pride. But it was not like most Prides around the world. Today was more of a walk around the park with tight security. The main thing, as everyone agreed, was that it happened and it was peaceful. Gay men and women from across Europe — not to mention dozens of Tinky Winkys — journeyed to the Latvian capital in solidarity with their embattled ‘brothers and sisters’.
“We just had to come here,” said one German visitor. “The Latvian gays have had terrible experiences at the last two Prides, so this is my way of telling them that they are not forgotten. We are gay and we are Europeans — it’s all about solidarity,” he added.
Among those taking part were a number of politicians from across the continent — from Spain to Finland. Raül Romeva, a vice president of the European Parliament’s ‘Intergroup” for gay and lesbian rights, described the Pride as “a marvellous achievement. I am very pleased that it went smoothly,” he said. “The Riga authorities did a good job in making sure that the event ran smoothly and without any trouble.” But comparing Riga Pride with other Prides in Europe, he said that having it in a park was a bit like “being in a zoo”. “It’s a good start,” he was quick to point out. “Perhaps in the future Riga Pride will be through the streets of the city. Mozaika [the Pride organisers] and the city can be proud of today,” he added.
Security was tight. Special fencing was erected around Vermanes Gardens, which was completely sealed off. Participants were searched by police before they entered the area, but there were no complaints. The march was more like a stroll around the park. But there were flags aplenty, banners, slogans and lots of colour. One of the foreign visitors was Vichaslau Bortnik, from neighbouring Belarus where Gay Prides are now totally forbidden since 2001 when 300 marched in Minsk.
“While I had the feeling that we were in a zoo, it was better than nothing,” he said. “I hope that today will have a lot of media coverage in Latvia to show people that such an event can be staged peacefully. The police were fantastic and everyone worked so hard to make the event go without problems. Most of the people watching the parade through the railings were supportive,” he felt. “Many were waiving at us.”
At one stage, a No Pride skinhead supporter tried hurling homophobic abuse at the parade. But he was quickly taken to task by several of the hundreds of police, including ‘riot” police, present. Volker Beck, the member of the German Bundestag who was in Moscow last weekend for the city’s troubled Gay Pride, declared to participants that “this is the first real gay parade in Riga”.
“A wonderful day — the fist legal Pride n Riga,” he told an enthusiastic audience. “May there be many more.” Not shy of poking a little fun at the Polish government and their official investigation into the sexuality of Tink Winky from the children’s TV programme TeleTubbies, many brought a Tinky Winky to the Pride. “I think Tinky Winky is perhaps the official guardian of the Rainbow Flag in Europe,” joked a participant from Sweden.
Following the parade, local police laid on buses to take participants to a safe area of the city. There are no reports of anyone being injured. However, according to the BBC, a paint bomb and a couple of firecrackers were throw into the park by protestors. Skinheads were making obscene gestures at participants when they left the main entrance to the park, but there were dozens of police to ensure a peaceful departure. The British Ambassador to Latvia, Ian Bond, is reported to have made a personal appeal to the country’s Prime Minister to see that the Pride went off in safety for everyone. The No Pride group staged a counter-event nearby — a rock concert and rally with the title “World Against Homosexuality”. Organisers had predicted an attendance of 10,000, but no more than 1,500 attended.
June 5, 2007 – Gay.Com
Gay Pride in Latvia
by Stewart Who?
At 37, I’m a gay pride veteran. My first march was in the late ’80s when the post-stomp party occurred in London’s Kennington Park. It was rowdy, invigorating, and compared to the monsters which came later, quite social and intimate. Since then, I’ve enjoyed pride events in New York, Stockholm, Sydney, Paris and Sao Paulo. Growing jaded, my passion for the importance of Pride was reinvigorated in 2000 at World Pride in Rome, when a million happy militants marched against the Pope’s wishes. Despite all those proud experiences, Riga Pride in Latvia proved an unnerving and alien episode. The Friendship Days event was spread over four days, and I arrived in the middle of the schedule, on the sunny Saturday morning. Strolling round picturesque Riga that afternoon, the absence of gays seemed almost spooky. Not one. Anywhere. Marauding stag parties, check.
Body-popping teens, check. German backpackers, check…they were all in full effect, but no queens anywhere to be seen. It turns out that the No Pride coalition had vocally discouraged international visitors by posting a message on their website which read: “Foreign Guests please don’t come. It’s our problem. Not yours!” Such tactics are hardly surprising; a sad revelation is that despite a few worthy exceptions, the international gay community stayed clear of Riga.
On the Saturday night, I DJd at Riga’s premier gay club Golden. One might expect that at 11pm on a Saturday night, there would be queues around the block and bar-staff dripping in sweat, stripped to their knickers, trying to cope with the influx of party goers. This was not the case. No amount of dry ice and flashing lights could hide the fact that four people on the dancefloor hardly constituted a Pride party Mozaika (Latvia’s LGBT pressure group) experienced a number of homophobic hiccups with regards to their program. It seems that the No Pride contingent harassed Riga Conference Hall to such an extent, that the venue felt it necessary to cancel Mozaika’s ‘Family Models: Diversity and Equality’ conference. While utterly depressing, one can understand why a venue might sling out the gays when faced with a shit-slinging, neo-Nazi rally on their doorstep. The No Pride contingent DID protest outside Riga Conference Hall, but to no avail, as Mozaika had moved kit and caboodle to the Islande Hotel.Obviously, there were no winners in that scenario.
No Pride continued their sinister campaign by managing to get the Double Coffee chain of coffeehouses to remove the Mozaika postcards from racks in their many Riga outlets. “Threats were made to the company,” the spokesperson said. “And Double Coffee capitulated.” While Riga’s gays have vowed to boycott the chain, this is a sadly laughable action, and highly unlikely to make the company wake up and smell the coffee. While gays are demonised by the majority, supporting them could be perceived as simply bad for business. The study “Attitude to Sexual Minorities in Latvia: Trends of the Year,” conducted by the Dialogi.lv Internet portal and the SKDS pollster, found that attitudes towards the LGBT community have actually hardened in the past year.
61% voiced generally negative views while 21% voiced ‘extremely negative’ views. This cultural regression means that while Latvia boasts an array of Medieval architecture, given a gay pride event, tourists can also witness the mob-handed attitudes of the Middle Ages. The curse of the anti-gay establishment struck again when the venue for the main party on Saturday night was cancelled at the last minute. No explanation was given, but the promoter was told by the owner that ‘under no circumstances’ could the Pride event take place in his venue. Luckily, they found another space, but as it was far smaller than their original choice, Mozaika were forced to postpone a performance from Boy George. The main party was held at a club called Pulkvedis in the Old Town. After spinning at the eerily quiet Golden, I hopped in a cab to play at the main event. While there was a healthy, happy crowd at the 150-capacity venue, it was hardly a roadblock. I’ve seen more people at a suburban gay pub on a Tuesday night. They were an enthusiastic bunch, but only a tiny fraction of Latvia’s gay population, who seem to have either emigrated or remained in the closet.
Following the gig, Anatolis, Golden’s handsome manager, led the way to a nightclub/casino called Fashion, popular with the Russian party set. It’s a flash, brash palace of pseudo-decadance complete with chandeliers, plush velvet and dolled-up girls behaving like extras in a hip-hop video. We were quite drunk and despite assurances, I was concerned that snogging on the dancefloor might lead to a kicking. It didn’t. As we staggered back to the hotel, Anatolis had his arm around my shoulder. This mild display of affection led to enquiries from a group of young women, who wanted to know if we were gay. Our response led to screamed abuse. ‘No Pride! No Pride!’ they chanted and jeered. It was a surreal moment, because initially, they appeared to be pretty, fun-loving girls. Their transformation into hateful harpies was instant and quite alarming. It didn’t help that my cohort relished cranking them up, and I had to drag him away before more passers-by got involved.
It was blisteringly hot at midday on Sunday as I dragged my hangover to Vermanes Gardens to witness the much anticipated march. The Pride participants were like rainbow coloured captives in a very strange zoo. From the street, one had to look past the throngs of gawping, shouting onlookers, beyond the armed police, through the railings and past the leafy foliage of the park’s trees. Surrounded by special fencing and guarded by moody storm troopers, the marchers brandished little rainbow flags from the safety of their Arcadian prison.
It was the ordinary nature of the anti-gay onlookers that proved most shocking. Young, well-dressed couples, teenage boys, old women and beered-up blokes hurled insults at the marchers, who were nothing if not meek and peaceful. Never have I seen a less provocative Pride parade- there were no go-go boys in sequin shorts, no drag queens…and a complete lack of pumping house music- just conventionally dressed people, singing The Beatles’ “All You Need is Love”. The contrast between one group’s need for love and the other’s blind hatred was quite profound and moving. Unable to find the entrance to the park, I was trapped on the outside with the neo-Nazis, storm troopers and curious onlookers. It has to be said, the police were quick to suppress any onlookers who seemed on the verge of violence. It wasn’t a threatening atmosphere, but it was entirely strange and unlike anything I’d witnessed before.
Following the parade, local police laid on buses to take participants to a safe area of the city. There are no reports of anyone being injured, despite the use of firecrackers and paint bombs which were thrown over the fencing. About 1 km away from this eerie scene, some 1,500 people attended a "World Against Homosexuals" concert. People who signed up to their anti-gay petition received a free t-shirt. Unfortunately, I had to get my flight back to London Sunday afternoon, so missed much of the post-parade action. Back in London, I stepped out onto my balcony, looked out at the twinkling panorama and enjoyed a moment of intense appreciation of the city I call home.
The first Pride event I attended in ’88 boasted 250,000 fellow marchers. Last year, over 1million revellers packed London for Europride. Riga’s Friendship Days was attended by about 500 brave souls, while thousands of police kept back a baying mob. Here in London, gay police proudly march at Pride events in uniform, while families and tourists cheer and applaud the colourful, often outrageous gay circus. London’s gay community is so big and confident that it enjoys neighbourhood pride events…Lewisham Pride anyone?
We have it good. We have it easy…and instead of just drowning in a sea of spunk, GHB and smug dribble, we should be supporting our brothers and sisters in the Baltics and other countries where the gays are under threat- step forward Poland, Russia, Lithuania, Estonia. Our greatest power is by showing our numbers and if there isn’t enough indigenous queers to make a noise in these countries, we should be flying in to boost the numbers, and fuck the carbon footprints. In some situations, the pink footprint is vitally important.
Queens seem to have no problem jetting to Sydney Mardi Gras, or White Party Palm Springs, where they’ll blend into a useless sea of twitching tits and torsos. If we’re to have the audacity of calling ourselves a ‘community’, the least we can do is act like one- start turning up in places where we count.
December 11, 2007 – 365gay.com
Cardinal Wants Gays Banned From Public Office
by 365Gay.com Newscenter Staff
Riga – The leader of Latvia’s Roman Catholics has called on political parties to ban gays from seeking public office. As the country prepares to go to the polls to elect a new Parliament Cardinal Janis Pujats issued a letter demanding the three major parties pledge not to endorse the candidacy of anyone who is gay and not to appoint anyone gay to non-elected office. The letter tells party leaders they must be "ready to defend the Latvian nation against the invasion of homosexuality in public life," the Baltic News Service reported on Tuesday. Pujats later said that European laws barring discrimination against gays "irrelevant" if they run counter to the morals of Latvia. "As a cardinal, I say this in the name of Latvia’s half-million Catholic believers. They are citizens of their country and have rights to express their opinions on all issues of national importance, he said.
All three candidates for Prime Minister have distanced themselves from Pujats’ remarks. In June Latvian gays marched in Riga under the watchful eyes of police who last year were accused of doing nothing while gays were attacked by extremists. Even so, the parade was held in a park that had been fenced in to prevent a repeat of last year’s counter protest. Outside the perimeter almost 100 people staged a noisy demonstration against LGBT civil rights. Later in the day the anti-gay groups – Catholics, skinheads, extreme nationalists, and neo-Nazis – held a concert billed as pro-family.
Last year the capital city of Riga refused to grant a parade permit citing security reasons following a recommendation from Latvian Interior Minister Dzintars Jaundzeikars. (story) Pride organizers organized a service at a local church instead of holding a parade. As they left the church dozens were attacked by an angry mob. They were pelted with bags of excrement and verbal abuse as police stood by watching. The issue of LGBT civil rights also led to a showdown between then President Vaira Vike-Freiberga and Parliament last year.
A labor law passed in 2004 as a condition of European Union membership and as required by the EU contained protections for gays was never implemented. In 2006 Parliament revised it stripped out the LGBT protections and sent it to the president for her signature. Vike-Freiberga vetoed the measure returning it to Parliament with a terse message that she would sign it only when the protections were restored. After a heated battle in Parliament the clause was reinstated and the bill was signed into law.
20th March 2008 – PinkNews
Two EU cities refuse to sign gay rights appeal
by Tony Grew
The Mayors of Riga in Latvia and Tallinn in Estonia have declined to take part in a campaign affirming freedom of assembly and expression for LGBT people in Europe. The Europe branch of the International Gay and Lesbian Association wanted the leaders of those cities to join 19 others in Europe and declare their support for their initiative. The Mayors of Paris, Nicosia, Amsterdam, Winterthur, London, Stockholm, Cologne, Barcelona, Venice, Vienna, Bologna, Manchester, Copenhagen, Budapest, Ljubljana, Zürich, Berlin, Dublin and Luxembourg have all pledged their support.
However Janis Birks, the Mayor of Riga, the scene of violent protests and attacks at a gay Pride event in 2006, said: "The Riga City Council truly supports your initiative, greatly appreciates the actions of the campaign and all the possible positive effects generated by the project" and that the Riga City Council is "very open to deepening and broadening our partnership in concrete initiatives in the years to come."
However, the Riga Mayor concluded: "the decision on the appeal should rather remain an individual competence of each City." Gay campaigners were attacked with eggs and bags of excrement and left feeling under siege by protesters as they aimed to quietly celebrate Riga Pride in 2006. Authorities in the Latvian capital had banned the gay parade on public order grounds, but activists including Outrage’s Peter Tatchell and GayRussia’s Nikolai Alexeyev decided to continue with smaller activities. ILGA-Europe’s campaign on the freedom of assembly and expression for LGBT people caused considerable discussions and media coverage in Estonia.
Edgar Savisaar, the Mayor of Tallinn, stated that as this is an issue of importance from society point of view, and therefore in order to form an opinion on the appeal, he forwarded this appeal to Tallinn City Council’s education and culture commission. Following discussion, the commission decided to advise the Mayor to reply to ILGA-Europe’s letter, explain the "good situation" of minorities in Tallinn and thus justify not signing the petition. The Deputy Mayor, Kaia Jäppinen, noted that this petition and the stand taken towards it, would in no way harm or discredit Tallinn as Europe’s Capital of Culture in 2011. "To connect this petition with culture capital is arbitrary and inappropriate," he said.
In 2006 Tallinn Pride was marred by violence. 15 people were injured after being attacked by groups of skinheads with sticks and stones. The Tallinn police tried to alter the parade route in 2007, claiming their presence would infringe the rights of other residents to go about their business. However, the route was authorised after protests by gay rights activists. Thousands of locals and tourists watched the parade, which was protected by extra police and private security.
April 25, 2008 – PinkNews
Latvian Pride marchers ‘fenced off’ for own good
by Adam Lake
The Latvian government has advised that next months gay pride event should be held in a fenced of area to avoid confrontation. Latvian Prime Minister Ivars Godmanis and Integration Minister Oskars Kastens have both said that next month’s Riga Pride and March for Equality should take place in an enclosed park. On Wednesday, Mr. Kastens told reporters that the best way to avoid violent scenes would for the event to be held within the fenced-off Vermanes Park where any counter demonstration could be contained. In 2006 gay campaigners were attacked with eggs and bags of excrement and left feeling under siege by protesters when they quietly celebrated Riga Pride. The municipal authorities in Riga said that the event would be cancelled to avoid public disorder after Christians, nationalists and neo-Nazis threatened the parade with violence and a counter march.
In April a court ruled that the decision to ban a the 2006 Pride march was illegal. Pride London twinned with Riga Pride in 2007 as a sign of solidarity and the Mayor of Riga said he was ashamed at the events in 2006.
Aiga Grisane, a lawyer representing Latvian gay rights group Mozaika said that the court decision: "Clearly states that even if the security risks are real and significant, the City Council has to do all within their powers to find a solution for the march which satisfies both the organisers and the police. We believe that this is purposeful policy on the part of the First Party of Latvia/Latvia’s Way (LPP/LC), which the minister represents, and that this policy has been pursued ever since the 2006 parliamentary election campaign, It is very ironic that the government has entrusted the issue of promoting tolerance in society to a minister who represents Latvia’s most intolerant political party. We believe that this strategy is dangerous, because it splits society, promotes various manifestations of hatred and, at the end of the day, creates even greater public distrust in the country’s political and governing structures."
Male homosexuality was considered a criminal offence and a mental illness in Latvia during the Soviet period. In 1992, soon after Latvia regained independence from the USSR, homosexuality was decriminalised. Last month The Mayors of Riga in Latvia and Tallinn in Estonia declined to take part in a campaign affirming freedom of assembly and expression for LGBT people in Europe. The Europe branch of the International Gay and Lesbian Association wanted the leaders of those cities to join 19 others in Europe and declare their support for their initiative.
April 28, 2008 – ukgaynews.org.uk
Gay Latvian Media Commentator on ‘Semi-Minister’ Kastens’ Outburst
Following the outbursts of Latvian Integration Minister Oskars Kastens last week on Riga Gay Pride parade, the openly gay news commentator Karlis Streips “lets rip” in two blog commentaries on the Latvian daily Diena website The English translation is by the author.
On Semi-Minister Kastens and New Legislative Procedure
by Karlis Streips
Good morning, readers!
I am always delighted when I notice that there have been new developments in our country’s political system. That can be said, for instance, about the way in which laws are adopted. Various institutions have the right of legislative initiative, but the overall process has always involved the meeting of state secretaries, the Cabinet of Ministers, the relevant parliamentary commissions, Parliament itself, and then the president.
Now, it turns out, another phase has been attached to this process. These days the ordinary legislative process is no longer adequate, and the men of the church must be brought in, too! It is particularly our mightily intelligent and tolerant “integration” semi-minister (he is not a real minister, he is “special” with his portfolio) has decided that he can do his work only with the blessing of the Roman Catholic cardinal and also the child of God who is the chairman of the parliamentary Human Rights Commission. At least that is the case if the national integration programme is the issue. The semi-minister questioned whether government policy in this regard is adequate, he talked to specialists and employees of his secretariat, decided that their views are less important than those of the aforementioned cardinal and child of God, and amended the programme accordingly.
Surely this is a process which can be expanded? The Roman Catholic church, after all, has dogma in all areas, even if it quite often seems that when it comes to people, the church is only interested in the zone that is between their navel and their upper thighs. The government could ask the cardinal what he thinks about administrative and territorial reforms. After all, there are many Roman Catholic cult buildings, as they used to be known, in Latvia – they could be given special status! No one asked the high-ranking church official what he thought about the recently rejected resolution on Tibet. After all, there are also Catholics in China, albeit not too many, most likely, in Tibet. And the national budget! The budget! Perhaps Godmanis could give the cardinal a seat at his right hand, just like Kalvitis used to do with Lembergs.
But seriously, folks. Oskars Kastens is an excellent example of a terrible problem in our political “elite”. To wit – with few exceptions, good people who enter politics (and here I am not speaking of the many politicians who care about nothing at all as long as they get a good salary and can put their friends on the councils of various companies) – these good people are forced to put their brains in a blind trust, like Andris Škele did with his promissory note. Good people voted to amend national security laws last year, knowing full well that they should not do so. Good people voted to appoint Zatlers as president, knowing full well what signal they were sending to the world (and, by the way, to Latvia’s society, too). And so on.
To be honest, I don’t know whether Oskars Kastens is a good person or an ordinary politician. The young man used to be a journalist. He even worked abroad for awhile, reported on issues from Brussels on television. Apparently he didn’t learn much there. I don’t believe that he is unaware of how terribly he has degraded himself by perverting the concept of integration as such to such a massive degree. Just one small example. Last year, as we all know, it was the Year of Equal Opportunities in Europe. The secretariat of our semi-minister took part. There was a conference to which all of those groups who do not exactly have equal opportunities were invited. All except Mozaika, the organisation of gays, lesbians and their friends. The semi-minister’s people explained that this was because they couldn’t find a way to contact Mozaika. This claim was composed by the same person who later convinced the leadership of Latvian Television that they should babble about the “horizontal timecode”. In other words, the secretariat was simply lying.
The situation is clear. In the hands of Oskars Kastens, there is no integration in our country at all. His pitiful behaviour over the last few months makes it more than clear that the semi-minister’s secretariat should simply be shut down. The functions could be turned over to the Religious Affairs Department or, even “better”, to the Roman Catholic cardinal.
May 28, 2008 – PinkNews
Riga Pride marchers "heroes and warriors" says MEP
by Tony Grew
The European Parliament Intergroup on Gay and Lesbian Rights has condemned the actions of Roman Catholic leaders in Latvia. Over the weekend the Cardinal, Janis Pujats, and more than two dozen priests released a letter to the Latvian government claiming that Pride marches are illegal.
"First of all, they are aimed against morality and the family model which exists in our nation and is enshrined in the fundamental law of the state, the Constitution," the letter stated. "Second, homosexuality is against the natural order and, therefore, against the laws of God. Third, homosexuals also claim unlawfully to have the rights of a minority. A minority is made up of those who are different from the majority of people because of nationality, language, race, skin colour and other neutral characterisations, but not of moral evaluation. That means that there can be no minority of alcoholics, homosexuals, drug addicts or any other people if the minority is based on immoral inclinations. Otherwise this would be direct promotion of immorality."
The Cardinal suggested that gay people congregate in a hotel or somewhere out of sight. He also condemned "foreigners" which presumably includes EU citizens, "who are so full of bravado, to think about the fact that they have no right to publicly propagandise perversion in Latvia and expect that this shameful behaviour is even protected by the police. This is humiliation to law enforcement officials." A gay Pride march is scheduled to take place on Saturday in Riga, the Latvian capital. MEPs from the European Parliament’s Intergroup on Gay and Lesbian Rights condemned the Cardinal.
"The signatories to the letter show a blatant disregard for human rights as expressed in the European Convention of Human Rights," said Michael Cashman, an MEP for the West Midlands and President of the Intergroup. They also show an appalling and worrying ignorance of EU treaties and legislation. They should not interfere in a democratic state which abides by the rule of law. It is up to governments to govern and up to the clergymen to preach unto those who believe as they do. They are entitled to their views and opinions, but must not be allowed to use their beliefs to diminish the human rights and civil liberties of others. I send my love and support to those taking part in the Equality March. They are my heroes and warriors."
In the past year Cardinal Janis Pujats has called for gay people to be banned from politics and claimed that homosexuality is a form of prostitution. Last April Christian groups in Latvia welcomed fundamentalist US preachers and to the country and talked tactics about opposing gay rights. A meeting organised by Janis Vanags, Archbishop of the Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church, was attended by Cardinal Pujats and representatives of the Orthodox, Penecostals and other Christian groups. They were addressed by Kenneth Hutcherson, who runs a ‘super-church’ in Seattle and is a vehement opponent of gay rights.
He told the Latvians that homosexuality was spreading rapidly, and that the "gay lobby" had increasing political influence across the world. "We need to do everything to ensure that even in the European Union it does not lose its principles. It is a holy right of any nation to decide in what society to live," he told the assembled crowd, which included senior MPs.
Latvia joined the EU in 2004.
May 31, 2008 – ukgaynews.org.uk
Latvian President Calls for Tolerance, Understanding on Gay Issues:Riga Gay Pride Staged With No Problems
Riga – As gay men and women were preparing for this morning’s March for Equality, the Latvian President for more tolerance, understanding, comprehension and freedom — a welcome move that was cheered by march participants when the statement was read out. Hundreds of marchers had taken taken part in Riga’s very first street Gay Pride parade on amid tight security with hundreds of protesters kept at bay by the police. It was after the march had ended that the contents of the President’s remarks were read out, in Latvian and English, to the crowd.
“My personal attitude … will never change,” President Valdis Zatlers said in his statement, after saying that that he “absolutely opposed any kind of intolerance” — a position he has always taken. “I think that the main thing for people is not only to stop being intolerant, but also to understand others. One thing of which I am certainly proud, and of which I am proud whenever I meet with foreigners, is that ours is a democratic country. We have a truly free country n which every citizen has the right to express himself, and that opportunity is respected,” the statement continued. I think that these are values from which we must not retreat.”
Turning specifically to the controversy over ‘gay issues’, President Zatlers said that “one thing we need respect when we talk about various social privileges or legal issues is the so-called common household. “If some people have a common household and they have — let’s say — the common life of a single gender, then we certainly need to resolve these aspects of social privileges … inheritance, the right of the spouse to enjoy certain privileges, and so on. That is what needs to be done, and t would be a gesture of understanding, comprehension and good will.” And the President concluded by saying: “I am speaking as a person, a citizen, a father and a spouse.”
Takng part in the March for Equality were a complete cross section of not only the Latvian community, but from many other countries — there were young and old, gay and straight, skin colours of every hue. However, there is a considerable number of Latvian gay men and women who remain too scared to participate. “I would very much like to go on the march,” a gay man, who asked not to be identified, told UK Gay News over a drink in the Golden Bar yesterday evening. But I am scared that I will be seen by someone I know and this will result in problems within my family and at work. You are so lucky in your country that homosexuality is so open. Perhaps one day here …”
While today’s march was along a closed stretch of 11 Novembra Krastmala, between the historic Riga Old Town and the river, it was ‘a step in the right direction’ after last year’s march in an enclosed park, an official at organisers Mozaika said. He praised the police operation. “They were fantastic and we really thank them for their efforts.” The ‘No Pride’ protesters were allowed their say — but at a distance. There were no reports of any trouble.
English translation of President Valdis Zatlers’ statement courtesy Karlis Streips.
Four pages of photos from today’s Riga Pride start HERE
June 2, 2008 – PinkNews
Heavy security as protesters outnumber gays at Riga Pride
by Staff Writer, PinkNews.co.uk
A march for gay rights has passed off peacefully in the Latvian capital Riga. Police arrested four of an estimated 400 anti-gay protesters, but the threats of violence against the Pride march did not materialise. See photos here
British and Swedish human rights advocates and politicians were among the 300 people who took part in the event on Saturday. City authorities closed off streets and deployed police to keep the groups apart. The marchers were taken away in buses at the end of the event. "It’s important to be here and show our solidarity," Swedish Social Democrat member of parliament Magdalena Streijffert told Reuters. "It’s important to dare to be who you are."
In an interview published ahead of the gay march the Latvian President, Valdis Zatlers, backed the event.
"I oppose absolutely any kind of intolerance, and that is the basic platform which I will always observe," he told newspaper Neatkariga Rita Avize. "I think that the main thing for people is not only to stop being intolerant, but also to understand others. We are talking only about tolerance, but we seldom talk about trying to form an understanding and comprehension vis-à-vis any minority group, no matter what kind. I think that every person must be given a chance to express himself freely, and that is what ensures tolerance, understanding, comprehension and also freedom. That is the main thing."
Opposition to Pride marches in Latvia has been led by the Roman Catholic Church. Last week the Cardinal, Janis Pujats, and more than two dozen priests released a letter to the Latvian government claiming that Pride marches are illegal. "First of all, they are aimed against morality and the family model which exists in our nation and is enshrined in the fundamental law of the state, the Constitution," the letter stated. "Second, homosexuality is against the natural order and, therefore, against the laws of God. Third, homosexuals also claim unlawfully to have the rights of a minority. A minority is made up of those who are different from the majority of people because of nationality, language, race, skin colour and other neutral characterisations, but not of moral evaluation. That means that there can be no minority of alcoholics, homosexuals, drug addicts or any other people if the minority is based on immoral inclinations. Otherwise this would be direct promotion of immorality."
A survey of LGBT people in Latvia in February 2007 found that 82% of respondents were not in favour of holding Riga Pride, while only 7% felt that these events would help promote tolerance against sexual minorities. Resistance to the Pride event has also come from Riga’s Deputy Mayor, who called it a "propaganda of perversion."
"I don’t believe that we should spoil a few percent of society members by allowing them to propagandise their perversion," Andris Argalis told LETA news agency. "Otherwise we’re going to have to afford the same opportunities to other, similar groups of sexual oddities – flashers, exhibitionists, glue-sniffers.
June 3, 2008 – PinkNews
Rainbow flag flies over British embassy in Riga
by Staff Writer, PinkNews.co.uk
Yesterday afternoon the Union flag was replaced with the international symbol of the LGBT community at the British embassy in the Latvian capital. The ambassador, Richard Moon, took part in a flag-raising ceremony with embassy staff and gay rights advocates from the UK and Latvia looking on. He then presided over afternoon tea. The ambassador restated the government’s commitment to LGBT rights across the world. It is thought that the Rainbow flag flown from the Embassy yesterday to mark the end of the Riga Pride may be taken to Warsaw Pride this weekend. Last week Mr Moon joined the Dutch, Swedish and Danish ambassadors at a Pride reception, which took place on Saturday without the violent confrontations that had been predicted.
It is common for the Rainbow flag to fly from municipal buildings to mark Pride or other events such as the annual International Day Against Homophobia, but it is thought this is the first time a British embassy has displayed it. Last month the Foreign and Commonwealth Office confirmed its commitment to engage with foreign governments about the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans people. It issued an ‘LGBT Toolkit’ to its 261 embassies, high commissions and other diplomatic posts. The kit contains information on the official British policy on gay rights and instructions in how to "provide added value to equality and non-discrimination work." It covers a wide range of issues, from decriminalisation, sexual health, reproductive rights and health education to bilateral work with other countries.
The document states that LGBT activists are often targets for persecution and that the FCO should ensure these people are "included among human rights defenders concerning whom the UK will lobby and will engage the support of other governments, especially EU members."
A spokesperson for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office told PinkNews.co.uk: "The UK remains committed to promoting the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people overseas. Last December the FCO adopted a programme of action for promoting the human rights of LGBT people abroad. This made clear that sexual orientation cannot be a qualifying factor in the application of human rights. We have now worked with partners to develop a programme to guide our embassies overseas. This programme has now been sent to all our diplomatic posts worldwide. We will continue to engage with our posts to promote the rights LGBT people across the world."
December 16, 2008 – PinkNews
First Baltic Pride will be celebrated in Riga next year
by Staff Writer, PinkNews.co.uk
LGBT organisations from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania have announced their plans to hold a joint Pride event next year. Baltic Pride aims to draw attention to the situation for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the three EU member states and "encourage people of different sexual orientations to celebrate diversity and Baltic unity." Estonian Gay Youth (EGN), Latvian LGBT group Mozaika and the Lithuanian Gay League (LGL) have agreed to organise joint pride events in the Baltic and will begin with Riga next year. The Pride programme will consist of a political discussion on non-discrimination principles in the European Union, seminars, cultural events and a Pride parade.
The festival will run from May 15th to May 17th, the international day against homophobia (IDAHO). Lithuanian gay activist Vladimir Simonko, chairperson of LGL, said it is important to "follow the example of Estonia and Latvia, where Pride parades have already taken place for a few years and the understanding of freedom of assembly and expression has grown bigger than in Lithuania." LGL are planning Baltic Pride in Vilnius in 2010. In August two mayors of Lithuanian cities refused to allow an EU anti-discrimination exhibition on public land.
In a compromise, the touring vehicle, organised by the European Commission, was displayed on private property. The mayor of Vilnius, Juozas Imbrasas, refused to allow the truck into the city claiming that participation of LGBT activists would be "propaganda of homosexuality." Andrius Kupcinskas, Mayor of Kaunas, said that the "homosexual festival may cause many negative emotions." The LGBT community face considerable prejudice in the Baltic states, where the Roman Catholic church and other Christian denominations have considerable political and social influence.
In the run up to this year’s Riga Pride, Cardinal Janis Pujats said homosexuality is against the natural order and, therefore, against the laws of God, and that homosexuals also claim unlawfully to have the rights of a minority. The event in June passed off peacefully. Police arrested four of an estimated 400 anti-gay protesters, but the threats of violence against the Pride march did not materialise. British and Swedish human rights advocates and politicians were among the 300 people who took part in the event. City authorities closed off streets and deployed police to keep the groups apart.
The marchers were taken away in buses at the end of the event. Despite the situation in Latvia and Lithuania, Estonian gays may soon be given new rights. "The Estonian LGBT community is still waiting for the discussion of same-sex partnership to be brought up in the Estonian Parliament,” said Madle Saluveer of EGN. “The partnership law would be the first big step forward in the recognition of LGBT rights in the Baltic states. We would like similar progress to take place in all three countries – after all, we are close neighbours and have in common a wish to develop our democracies.”
In July the Estonian Ministry of Justice confirmed it was preparing a draft law which would allow same-sex partners to register their cohabitation. Amendments to inheritance, property rights and citizenship will be included and unmarried heterosexual couples could also benefit from the draft law. In 2006 Tallinn Pride was marred by violence. 15 people were injured after being attacked by groups of skinheads with sticks and stones. Tallinn police tried to alter the parade route in 2007, claiming their presence would infringe the rights of other residents to go about their business. However, the route was authorised after protests by gay rights activists