Bulgarians join Gay Pride march to promote tolerance

by Kilian Melloy
Monday Jun 28, 2010

In Bulgaria, a small but peaceful Pride march was the order of the day on June 26. The event stood in marked contrast to the violence that has characterized Pride events in other former Eastern Bloc nations.

In Lithuania last month, a permit for a Pride parade was alternately issued and revoked, before the courts intervened and allowed the event to take place.

In Belarus, also last month, Pride marchers were compelled to carry out stealth campaigns, outmaneuvering police in order to display a Pride flag and chant equality slogans for a scant few minutes before the authorities arrived in vans and roughly hauled Pride participants away.

In what the Slovakian press called "a day of shame," neo-Nazi Groups, who attacked marchers with eggs, tear gas, and their fists, broke up that nation's first Pride march last month. In the wake of the attack, the full-scale Pride parade, which had been scheduled to take place subsequent to the rally and march, was cancelled due to security concerns.

And in Moscow, Pride organizers were denied permission for the annual event for the fifth consecutive year. Noted Russian GLBT equality activist Nikolai Alexeyev, "Similar parades were prohibited by the Moscow mayor in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009." Alexeyev added, "Despite the requirements of the relevant legislation the Moscow government has not offered the organizers any alternatives for holding the planned event." Even so, when determined gay equality advocates put on a pair of Pride marches May 29, Russian authorities did not hinder them--a first, reported the Associated Press.

On June 26, about 200 GLBT activists and their supporters marched in the Bulgarian city Sofia, reported the AFP that same day. The event went forward despite harsh denunciations from the Orthodox Church, which called the event "a shameful demonstration of Sodomic sin" and said that the parade "infringes upon human dignity, family values and public morals."

But the marchers themselves had a very different perspective, the article reported, adopting a theme that urged onlookers to "Love equality, embrace diversity."

The parade was protected by a police presence; in 2009, the parade was disrupted by anti-gay violence. In contrast, despite about a hundred anti-gay demonstrators on hand to protest the event, Bulgaria's Pride march was peaceful.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.


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