Arts & Entertainment
Police Protect Gay Pride Rally in Bulgaria
Originally printed 7/5/2012 (Issue 2027 - Between The Lines News)
SOFIA, Bulgaria (AP) -
About 2,000 people held a gay pride rally in Bulgaria's capital on Saturday, protected by riot police after extremist groups urged their members to stop the event.
Such rallies have been attacked in the past by groups that oppose the call to legalize gay marriage in Bulgaria.
Guarded by hundreds of police and private security, the mostly young marchers walked peacefully through downtown Sofia June 23rd, displaying colorful banners calling for love, equality and sexual diversity.
Ahead of the event, diplomats from many countries issued a joint statement supporting the Sofia Pride March. The ambassadors of Argentina, Austria, Great Britain, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Serbia and the United States called the event " an opportunity to promote human rights and tolerance, celebrate diversity, and denounce homophobia."
This Balkan country of 7.3 million joined the European Union in 2007, but gays and lesbians still face widespread hostility in the country's macho-dominated society and opposition to their public events has been fierce.
The influential Orthodox Church had urged authorities to ban Saturday's rally, saying it would undermine Christian traditions. In a statement, the Holy Synod of the Church said it was " categorically opposed to the organization of such an immoral manifestation."
In 2004, Bulgaria adopted an anti-discrimination law that protects gay rights, but it has proved ineffective.
Human rights groups such as Amnesty International have called for an urgent overhaul of Bulgarian law to ensure that hate crimes, which often target gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, are properly investigated and prosecuted.
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