Patriarch of the Georgian Orthodox Church, Ilia II, has called on the authorities not to allow gay rights activists to gather on May 17 to mark the International Day Against Homophobia.
In a written statement on May 16, the Patriarch, who described homosexuality as “anomaly and disease”, said that holding of such rally would be “a violation of majority’s right” and “an insult” of Georgian traditions.
According to a Tbilisi-based gay rights group, Identoba, a rally outside the former parliament building on Rustaveli Avenue to mark the International Day Against Homophobia will last for about 30 minutes.
On the same day a parallel rally is also planned by anti-gay, Orthodox activists.
“As it is known a rally of sexual minorities and their supporters is planned on the Rustaveli Avenue on May 17, which aims not at resolving real problems of these people, but at speculating by this issue, because it is the fact that despite of traditions and way of thinking that is established in our country, they [sexual minorities] can live their private life without restrictions,” the Georgian Patriarch’s statement reads.
“It is also the fact that there are universal values, which are common across time and space – moral laws are among them. All the religions and scientific approaches (psychology and medicine) consider homosexuality to be anomaly and disease (of course we do not mean here newly created pseudo scientific views). The Church considers people with such inclinations to be in a grave sin, which need help and spiritual assistance as a remedy for correction, instead of encouragement and especially imposing their condition on population,” the statement says.
“That would be similar to liking actions of a drug addict and making public display of drug addiction. Our people have different aspirations and for that reason it is understandable their sharp protest against this [planned May 17] and similar rallies.”
“Our citizens view [such rallies] as a violation of majority’s right and as an insult to their traditions, religion and in general to way of thinking,” the statement reads.
“We believe that the Tbilisi Mayor’s Office and the authorities should take into consideration these [factors] and revoke permission given to homosexuals for holding the rally, especially now when there is a nationwide mourning for fallen brave men [reference to three Georgian soldiers killed in Afghanistan],” the Patriarch’s statement says.
There is no permission required from the authorities for holding a rally, according to the Georgian legislation; organizers of a rally only inform local authorities about their plans in advance, but this notification is not done for the purpose of obtaining permission.
Commenting on upcoming gay rights rally in downtown Tbilisi, PM Bidzina Ivanishvili said at a news conference on May 14 that sexual minorities were equal citizens of this country and the society would “gradually get used to it”.
Asked how the authorities would act in a situation when there are threats against planned gay rights rally, Ivanishvili responded: “We will protect the rights; [planned two parallel] rallies will probably be distanced from each other; I can’t tell you specifics how it will be done, but there are police, which will stand in the middle and will not allow [anyone] to obstruct others.”
The first-ever march of a small group of rainbow flag-waving gay activists in Georgia, where anti-gay prejudice runs deep, was held last May. But at the time the march ended in a scuffle with an Orthodox group, which blocked activists' way not allowing them to continue procession.
Giga Bokeria, President Saakashvili’s national security adviser and Secretary of National Security Council, welcomed PM’s remarks and called on the relevant authorities to prove words with deeds and not to allow “shameful group of hate preachers” to obstruct gay rights rally on May 17.
Parliamentary Chairman, Davit Usupashvili, said on May 16, that protection of rights of each and every citizen should become “rule of life.”
“If some [groups] think that their rights are violated or threatened, they should have the freedom to openly express their views,” Usupashvili said. “I am sure that the police and the relevant agencies will be at their best and the constitution will be protected at tomorrow’s [rally].”