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GayFest 2007

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The 2007 GayFest was held between 4 and 9 June, 2007, with the theme of "Celebrate diversity! Respect rights!"[1] The festival included a pride parade, art exhibitions and a film festival, as well as two public debates (one on discrimination and another on religion and democracy). As in 2006, the 2007 GayFest focused on the issue of same-sex marriage and partnership, provoking another public debate about the issue in the Romanian media and society.[2] According to ACCEPT, the focus on same-sex unions was due to the fact that "the adoption of legislation in this regard is a decisive step for affirming the equality of rights for all citizens"[3]

Film festivalEdit

The 2007 GayFest included the Inklusiv Film Festival, which showcased nine feature-length international films and documentaries about LGBT issues:

  • Kinsey (USA, 2005)
  • Heneini (USA, 2005)
  • Transparent (USA, 2005)
  • Gypo (UK, 2005)
  • The End of Second Class (Canada, 2005)

  • Tying the Knot (USA, 2004)
  • Politics of the Heart (Canada, 2005)
  • Inlaws and Outlaws (USA, 2005)
  • The Conrad Brothers (USA, 2006)

The festival also included seven short films, screened one after another, on the theme of "Men in privacy".

On Tuesday, June 5, the second day of the film festival, a gay couple were physically-assaulted by a group of around eight people, as they were exiting the cinema where the films are shown. The police intervened rapidly and arrested the aggressors. According to a statement by the police, one of the aggressors has been charged for assault. The spokesperson of the Bucharest Police, Christian Ciocan, stated that, "The person under question was taken to the police station, where he was charged for assault and other violences, risking a prison sentence of one to three months, or a penal fine." The status of the other attackers is unknown.[4]

ExhibitionsEdit

The 2007 GayFest included two photographic exhibitions highlighting LGBT issues. The first exhibition, Parteneri de viaţa – album de nuntă ("Partners for life - wedding album") was held at the InfoEuropa Centre and presented photographs and testimonies from the first same-sex marriages conducted in San Francisco in 2004. The photographic project, which was created by the San Francisco Queer Cultural Center and Bay Area Community of Women, sought to "transmit the idea of the universality of love, acceptance and understanding."[5]

The Cărtureşti Bookstore also hosted a photo exhibition titled "Ce fac gayi şi lesbienele in pat?" (What do gays and lesbians do in bed?), which highlighted 16 photos from the Polish artists Rapari Team that presented the day-to-day activities of same-sex couples. The goal of the exhibition was to show that "the life of a gay individual or couple is not different from the life of a heterosexual individual or couple, and that the needs of people, indifferent of sexual orientation, are the same."[5]

Pride paradeEdit

The GayFest pride parade was held on June 8, between 17:00 and 19:00, on the route Bd. Decebal-Piaţa Unirii-Parcul Izvor in central Bucharest. Although ACCEPT expected more than 1,000 people to attend, only around 500 took place, due to rain.[6] For the first time, the parade included a series of speeches made on the subject of LGBT rights. Keynote speeches were made by Florin Buhuceanu (the vice-president of ACCEPT), Diane Fisher (a minister of the Metropolitan Community Church), Maxim Anmeghicean (representing ILGA-Europe), and Christoph Michl (from Stuttgart Gay Pride). Security at the parade was ensured by 400 gendarmes.[7] Aside from the traditional rainbow flag, balloons and music, the participants held up signs saying "God loves us all" and "We love our gay sons and lesbian daughters"[8]

Despite the unprecedented security, more than a hundred anti-gay protesters tried to break up the pride parade. The protesters failed to penetrate through the police cordon and, after throwing stones and firecrackers at police, they were dispersed with teargas and around 100 of them were arrested.[9] According to Christian Ciocan, the police spokesperson, none of the participants in the pride parade was injured.[6]

Florin Buhuceanu, the vicepresident of ACCEPT, declared after the march:

We regret that our opponents use violence ... Police only did their job to protect an authorised march. It is our right to express our beliefs and we will not renounce in the face of violence.[9]

Maxim Anmeghicean, the representative from ILGA-Europe, stated that, "Even since I have participated at this march I have never seen such a strong persence by the forces of law and order". He remarked that the gendarmes had acted very professionally.[10]

A few hours before the GayFest pride parade, at 10:00 in the morning, the far-right organisation Noua Dreaptă organised a counter-demonstration against the GayFest, titled the "March for Normality". The event was attended by around 100 participants, bearing posters against same-sex marriage, Christian crosses, and fascist symbols.[11] The Noua Dreaptă marchers were met by a group of around 20 antifascist ("antifa") protesters who shouted slogans such as "All different, all equal" and "Noua Dreaptă: Illegal", and declared that they are "protesting against the Nazist extremism which goes unpunished in Romanian society". The antifascist protesters were not affiliated to the organisers of the GayFest pride parade.[12]

ReactionsEdit

Media reactions to the 2007 GayFest have been more positive than in previous years, with three of the largest daily newspapers, Cotidianul, Evenimentul Zilei, and Adevărul, including favourable editorials or articles about the event. Evenimentul Zilei's Andrei Crăciun argued that, through GayFest 2007, "Bucharest is preparing for a new test of normality" where "normality means the ability to accept diversity, even if you don't agree [with something]."[13] An editorial in the same newspaper by Emilian Isaila argued that same-sex marriage should be legalised and that "God" should not play a role in this debate. Isaila stated that, "Same-sex unions should be legalised so that those with another sexual orientation can benefit from rights regarding borrowing, common ownership of goods and inheritance. And I also believe that sexual minorities in Romania have the right at least once a year to provoke debate on this issue. After all, if we want it or not, society has to integrate them."[14]

GayFest was also covered in the HotOrNot section or the Cotidianul Weekend newspaper. The article, titled "If you're hetero[sexual], go to the gay parade", stated that, ""Participating in GayFest is hot because, aside from the fight against discrimination, it is a parade that is jolly, coloured and can be fun".[15] At 12:00 on June 9, ProTV, the largest private TV network in Romania, screened a short documentary titled "Gays which made history". In celebration of GayFest 2007, the show sought to inform people more about international LGBT history and issues of diversity.[16]

Following the pride parade, Libertatea sought to investigate the opinion of the public with regard to the event. According to its findings, the majority of those interviewed saw the parade as something "perfectly normal in a democratic country". One passer-by stated, "It's good that they're expressing their views. It's their business what sexual inclinations they have. As long as they don't affect me with anything, they can do what they want. If the City Hall gave them permission to organise a meeting, why wouldn't they do it? Today, people hold meetings for everything." Another interviewee remarked, "Their manifestation doesn't affect me in any way. They can do what they want if the City Hall gave them the right. They can affirm their opinions, they can ask for their rights, since we live in a free country."[17]

The GayFest 2007 received an official letter of support and solidarity from the organisers of Zagreb Pride,[18] as well as from Herta Däubler-Gmelin, a member of the German Bundestag and former Justice Minister of Germany.[19]

Religious groupsEdit

The Romanian Orthodox Church issued a statement against the pride parade on June 7, stating that it "disapproves the manifestation in the public space of the sexual minorities...as it considers it to be an offence to the morality of public life, to the sacred institution of the family, the basis of society, and a danger for the formation of the younger generation, by exposing the youth to moral corruption."[20]

The parade was, however, supported by the Metropolitan Community Church in Bucharest, with the church's pastor, Diane Fisher, making a keynote address.

Political reactionsEdit

GayFest 2007 did not receive an official reaction from any political party in Romania. Some politicians did, however, make homophobic comments regarding the event. Gheorghe Flutur, the vice-president of the Liberal Democratic Party, stated in a television interview that he has "a poor opinion" of LGBT people, and that he disapproves of the liberties they have obtained.[21]

Radu Ţîrle, a Romanian MEP representing the Democratic Party, expressed his opposition to the gay pride parade, stating "The homosexual parade in Bucharest is a shame for Romania. It is regrettable that behind the so-called freedom of sexual orientation and freedom of opinion, the proselytism of this deviant and immoral behaviour is allowed to proliferate. The sexual orientation of anyone is a purely personal matter and its freedom is guaranteed by law, but it should not degenerate into manifestations which tend towards proselytism." Ţîrle also criticised the Bucharest City Hall for authorising the march.[22] Ţîrle has in the past made derogatory comments about other minorities, such as the Roma,[23] Hungarians,[24] and religious minorities,[25] and in December 2006 the Democratic Party voted to no longer endorse him as a candidate for the next European Parliament elections.[26] It is important to note that the Mayor of Bucharest, Adriean Videanu, who authorised the pride parade, is also a member of the Democratic Party.

Gigi Becali, known for his repeated homophobic comments at previous LGBT events, stated, "I have nothing against them, but why they make a parade, I don’t understand. Let them meet in the park, 300, 500 of them, to make a show. I would have nothing against it, but a parade, propaganda? It is abnormal." Becali, who is also the president of the Steaua football club, stated that he doesn't want any more homosexuals coming to Ghencea Stadium, but later appeared to contradict himself by saying "Discrimination? It's discrimination if I don't let them come. Where's the discrimination?"[27] The National Council for Combating Discrimination announced that it will be investigating if Becali's comments breach Romania's anti-discrimination laws, which also cover speech.[28] In a later interview, however, Becali declared, "I love them [homosexuals] in the same way that I love all other people. They can marry at the City Hall, every day, 10 of them if they want to. But in church, they don't have a place.[29]

Corneliu Vadim Tudor, the president of the far-right Greater Romania Party, stated that public manifestations of homosexuality should be banned, because they "violate the sight, hearing and education of children" and "provoke the Church". However, he added that violence against LGBT people is a "form of barbarism", and should not be accepted under any circumstances.[30]


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