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Latvian President Calls for Tolerance, Understanding on Gay Issues


Riga Gay Pride Staged With No Problems


This article is only available in English on this site.  For online instant translation in selected languages, see below.




■ Sophia in 't Veld (centre), an MEP from the Netherlands, was one of two parliamentary observers at Riga Pride.

Four pages of photos from today’s Riga Pride start HERE

RIGA, May 31, 2008  —  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.


"Blogging With Pride" - Amnesty International

Four pages of photos from today’s Riga Pride start HERE

Amnesty and Mozaika for Strategic Partnership to Address Gay IssuesAmnesty International and Mozaika, the Latvian LGBT group, have formed a strategic partnership, it was revealed this afternoon. (UK Gay News, May 30, 2008)

Harsh Protests Promised for Riga Gay Pride by Latvian NationalistsLatvian ‘nationalist’ organisations warned today that the Gay Pride event along the 11th November Shoreline in Riga on Saturday will result in probable counter action.  And the country’s gay and lesbian NGO, Mozaika, was proudly flying the Rainbow Flag from its office building downtown.  (UK Gay News, May 29, 2008)

Politician Denounces Cardinal and Clergy Over “Gay” Attack. The open letter, condemning Riga Gay Pride, to the Latvian government from Cardinal Jānis Pujāts and other Roman Catholic priests shows “a blatant disregard for human rights”, an all-party group at the European Parliament said yesterday.  (UK Gay News, May 29, 2008)

Cardinal: Gay Pride Marches in Latvia Should be Declared Unlawful.  Gay Prides in Latvia should be seen as unlawful and impermissible, Roman Catholic Cardinal Jānis Pujāts has said in an open letter to the government.  (UK Gay News, May 27, 2008)

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Licence.  

Posted: 31 May 2008 at 11:30 (UK time)



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