by Rex Wockner -
SGN Contributing Writer
First pride planned in St. Petersburg, Russia
Despite the violence and official bans that have hit Moscow's pride events over the past four years, Russia's second city, St. Petersburg, will stage its first pride parade on June 26.
The plan has the support of the city's ombudsman, Alexey Kozyrev, who said Russians enjoy freedom of assembly and that Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov's war against that city's pride is to the city's "own detriment."
The chair of the St. Petersburg Lesbian and Gay Pride Festival, Maria Efremenkova, told GayRussia.ru, "Everyone has the right to freedom of assembly, and we intend to make use of this right for the LGBT community."
She said if the city attempts to stop the parade, "we will still go in the streets to exercise our constitutional right."
"We are very determined and any denial from the city authorities will be appealed though the Russian courts and up to the European Court of Human Rights," Efremenkova said.
On January 25, Moscow's Luzhkov vowed to ban pride for the fifth year running.
"For several years, Moscow has experienced unprecedented pressure to conduct a Gay pride parade, which cannot be called anything but a Satanic act," he said. "We have banned such parades and will ban them in future as well. Everyone must accept this not as a theorem but as an axiom. It is high time to crack down with all the power and justice of the law rather than messing around with talk of human rights."
In each of the past four years, Luzhkov sent riot police to violently arrest small groups of activists who ignored his bans.
Moscow Pride organizers have sued over the hostilities in a series of cases that have been merged into one at the European Court of Human Rights. On January 19, the court approved a request from the Russian government to postpone the deadline for its response in the matter until February 20.
Moscow's fifth pride events will take place in late May, and another march will be attempted on May 29. It is unlikely the Euro Court will rule before that time.
U.S. Gay activist Stuart Milk, Harvey Milk's nephew, is expected to participate in this year's events.
Costa Rica's new female president opposes same-sex marriage
Costa Rica's first woman president, elected in a landslide February 7, supports Gay civil rights but doesn't want Gays "to touch an institution like marriage."
Speaking to media during the campaign, Laura Chinchilla said: "A society that aspires to show solidarity and protect everyone's freedoms and defend human rights cannot discriminate in access to rights for reasons of religious beliefs, political beliefs or sexual preferences. In that sense, we defend the right of all Costa Ricans, independently of their sexual preferences, to have the protection of the state and of the institutions, and to have access to the different opportunities that Costa Rican society offers."
"Nevertheless," she said, "there are different ways other than marriage to guarantee homosexual couples the right to the patrimony of their partner, to patrimonial rights, to political rights, to civil rights. We are working on this and I hope that we certainly can get ourselves in agreement without needing to touch an institution like marriage, which also has been conceived by so many Costa Rican families within a different concept."
A video of her comments is at tinyurl.com/ydvejwr.
Euro Parliament: EU nations must protect LGBT rights
A plenary session of the European Parliament reaffirmed February 10 that nations hoping to join the European Union must modify national law to protect LGBT people from discrimination.
Adopting reports on the EU accession of applicants Croatia, Macedonia and Turkey, the parliament said such protections are a non-negotiable condition of membership.
The report on Croatia conveys the parliament's "concern at the resentment against the LGBT minority in Croatia, evidenced most recently by homophobic attacks on participants in the Gay pride parade in Zagreb," and calls on the government to implement and enforce protections against discrimination.
The report on Macedonia expresses the parliament's regret that proposed anti-discrimination legislation does not include sexual orientation and gender identity as covered grounds and calls on the government to get in line with EU standards.
The progress report on Turkey's accession points to shortcomings in the Turkish penal code that allow for systematic persecution of LGBT minorities and limitations on their freedom of assembly.
"We have reaffirmed that anti-discrimination standards must apply in candidate countries, and Stefan Füle, [EU] commissioner for enlargement, has assured us of his support on this issue," said parliament member Ulrike Lunacek, co-president of the body's Intergroup on LGBT Rights.
Added Intergroup Co-President Michael Cashman, "Accession criteria are crystal clear: Minorities must be protected from discrimination as laid out in Article 19 of the Treaty [on the Functioning of the European Union] - and that includes sexual orientation. This is not an à la carte menu: It is at the core of the European Union, and we will be rigorous in its application."
At last year's pride parade in Zagreb, according to the organizing committee, police officers "permitted an unconstitutional fascist gathering, permitted hate speech and, therefore, drastically decreased democratic standards of public assembly that have been established in the past years through work and cooperation with the police."
The officers "illegally" allowed counterprotesters to chant "Kill, kill faggots" and "Faggots to concentration camps," and took no action against people who spit on and threw things at the marchers, the pride organization said.
Between 700 and 800 people marched, making the parade "undoubtedly the largest pride march so far," the committee said.
With assistance from Bill Kelley, Andrés Duque
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