Voices for Equality: Kaspars Zalitis
By Shawn M. Gaylord
Kaspars Zalitis, Co-Chair of EuroPride 2015 in Riga, Latvia and board member of MOZAIKA.
In his words:
“At the moment one of our greatest challenges is to organize Riga’s first ever pan-European LGBT event—EuroPride—which will be the celebration of human rights in the region. Despite fierce opposition such as threats of referendum banning “homosexual propaganda” and attempts to block parts of the Parade route, Riga will host probably its most important Pride in EuroPride this summer!”
Latvian Homophobic Group Threatens to Shut Down EuroPride:
This month Latvia’s most prominent LGBT organization, the Association of LGBT and MOZAIKA was initially denied access to public spaces for the much-anticipated EuroPride. The event, scheduled for June 20th, is a pan-European celebration of LGBT communities that dates back to 1993 in London. Riga, this year’s host, has successfully held LGBT Pride events for ten years without issue.
In an attempt to block the event, a Latvian organization called the Anti-Globalists used a loophole in municipal regulations to disrupt the LGBT community’s original plans. The homophobic group booked all of the event locations that EuroPride’s organizers intended to use. Although reservations typically can’t be made until four months before an event, the Anti-Globalists were able to book the spaces for June 20th early by filing for a week-long permit that begins several days before the EuroPride celebrations.
Fortunately for EuroPride organizers, a district court blocked the Anti-Globalists from staging their events, allowing the landmark LGBT gathering to proceed. There remains a chance the homophobic group will appeal the court’s decision.
This move was part of the Anti-Globalists’ efforts to uphold so-called “traditional values” within the country. They have publicly accused the LGBT community of trying to “destroy the family” and called homosexuality a treatable disease. Their official website address is No-Homo.lv.
Without permits for Riga’s public spaces, EuroPride organizers would have been forced to seek alternatives to the celebration’s date or location. Despite the obstacles, MOZAIKA still urged international guests to attend the event.
The organizers of EuroPride appealed to the Latvian Minister of Justice to overturn the Anti-Globalists’ filing on the grounds that it was done solely to disrupt and provoke the LGBT community. The minister, however, had publicly made remarks disparaging the Latvian LGBT community, and many were pessimistic about EuroPride’s appeal.
Latvia holds the presidency of the Council of the European Union, which espouses the fundamental values of human rights and democracy, including the protection of the human rights of LGBT people. If they wish to maintain their reputation as a country that respects these values, Latvian officials should stand by the court’s decision to stop the homophobic obstructionism and ensure that EuroPride can conduct a safe and successful event.