By Trudy Ring
Originally published on Advocate.com June 27 2012 6:38 PM ET
A right-wing event has been scheduled for Saturday in Sofia, Bulgaria, to counter the LGBT pride parade the same day, and a local Orthodox priest is encouraging violence against parade participants.
Members of antigay groups, including an extreme right-wing political party, have received a city permit to hold an event just hours before the parade, reports LGBT rights group All Out. It is “ostensibly a ‘concert’ but in reality an anti-Pride gathering,” says an All Out press release.
Earlier this month, Father Evgeniy Yanakiev, a priest in the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, told the Bulgarian Standard newspaper that “stones should be thrown” at marchers in the parade. He also said political leaders who support the parade should “drowned in the sea with millstones tied around their necks.”
Human rights activists called for the church hierarchy to condemn the priest’s comments, but the church issued a statement calling the parade “immoral” and a “harmful demonstration that violates the rights of Orthodox Christians.” Church officials urged parents and teachers to keep young people from participating and described homosexuality as “an unnatural passion that undoubtedly harms the personality, the family and the society.”
Members of All Out fear that Yanakiev’s statements and the antigay gathering will lead to violence at the parade. Some marchers in the pride parade were beaten on the streets on their way home from the event last year, the group notes, and during the first such parade in Sofia, in 2008, right-wing demonstrators threw firebombs at participants. The group is coordinating an international campaign to urge the mayor of Sofia to revoke the permit for the antigay event.
“Mayor Yordanka Fandakova has a responsibility to protect the Pride participants when there is real danger that extremists will exact horrific violence on her citizens, simply because the want to live openly and be embraced for who they are,” said All Out executive director Andre Banks. “Giving an official permit to violent, antigay extremists on the same morning as Pride is a recipe for disaster.” Click here for more information.