My introduction to gay Latvian affairs happened one afternoon in the office of LGBT organization Mozaika (Mosaic) the only LGBT organization in Latvia working for the protection of LGBT rights and human rights in Latvia. In 2005 following public homophobic expressions toward Riga Pride that year, some members of the LGBT community, their friends and
In 1992, soon after Latvia regained independence from the USSR, homosexuality was decriminalised. The age of consent is 14 for those under 18, 16 for those over 18 regardless of gender and/or sexuality. In September 2006, Latvia’s parliament, the Saeima, passed amendments to the Labour Code prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in workplace. The Saemia had initially omitted such protection, but President Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga refused to sign the bill until it was added. At the time, Latvia was the last country in the European Union to introduce anti-discrimination laws dealing with sexual orientation. Only in the capital, Riga, is there a small gay scene. Elsewhere in Latvia, however, the sparse population means there is no gay scene. There are only few people who openly recognize themselves being gay or lesbian. Due to prevailing negative attitudes in society, and particularly the violent actions of a vocal anti-LGBT minority (e.g. National Power Unity), there is a fear that further lobbying for the rights of sexual minorities will provoke an even stronger backlash. Nevertheless, Pride took place in 2007; in contrast with the counterprotestors who greatly outnumbered Pride attendees in 2005, and the banning of Pride ceremonies in 2006, the 2007 Pride was peaceable and the 500 pridegoers outnumbered around 100 counterprotestors.
Intro: Latvia is a free country, since 1991, and now a proud member of the E.U. It boasts a expansive coast on the Baltic Sea as well as unique World Heritage turn-of-the-century architecture. It’s older citizens are conservative by nature, remembering the 60-year Soviet occupation, while younger citizens reach for the future through education and uninhibited exchange with the world. Not surprising however, as in other former communist-dominated eastern European countries, homophobia runs high fired by Catholic Church condemnation and neo-Nazi rhetoric and violence against LGBT people. Since the first Pride march in 2005 there have been threats, aggression and law suits to stop the event. But in 2007 with worldwide attention focused on the Riga city festival there were signs of social sobering with official permission and police protection; the modest Pride festival happened peacefully with success.
Presented here is a story from Passport magazine that looks at recent history and behind the hysteria to find a quiet brave gay community of hospitable and welcoming activists, citizens and business people.
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