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Romanian elections marred by antigay politics

Romanian elections marred by antigay politics

Romania's leading gay rights organization urged the ruling party Tuesday not to incite citizens against gays and lesbians to gain advantage in a closely disputed election campaign. Gay rights has become one of the central issues ahead of Sunday's elections in light of centrist presidential candidate Traian Basescu's comments that he supports equal rights for gays and lesbians. The dominant Orthodox Church condemned Basescu's statements, and the ruling Social Democratic Party has used the statements against Basescu, who is the mayor of Bucharest. "Human rights and the rights of a sexual minority should not become an issue in the elections," said Florin Buhuceanu, who heads Accept, Romania's main gay rights group. Buhuceanu also condemned "the way in which the Social Democratic Party is trying to use this topic, by inciting Romania's population against sexual minorities, when the level of discrimination is high anyway." In a campaign speech October 29, the Social Democratic Party's executive chairman, Octavian Cozmanca, called Basescu "satan on Earth and not a real Christian who understands the Romanian faith." "You cannot make national policy about homosexuals," he added. Romania holds presidential and parliamentary elections on Sunday. According to polls, Prime Minister Adrian Nastase and Basescu are the main contenders to become president, and their parties are neck-and-neck in the parliamentary race. Buhuceanu praised Basescu for his support of gay rights. "Nobody has made such statements in favor of respecting the rights of a sexual minority," he said. Buhuceanu said fliers showing Basescu's picture next to two men who are kissing are being distributed. No party has claimed responsibility for the fliers. Basescu has replied to the attacks by making veiled statements questioning Nastase's sexual orientation. Homosexuality was a crime in Romania until two years ago, when the government removed the offense from the penal code to comply with demands from the European Union, which Romania hopes to join in 2007.

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