Romania: LGBT March Takes Place Without Major Incidents and Under Police Protection

On Saturday, May 24, 2008, the Romanian NGO ACCEPT successfully organized another LGBT march in the country’s capital Bucharest. Over 200 people marched under police protection to support equal rights and nondiscrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

For the fourth consecutive year, ACCEPT also organized a weeklong “Gay Fest” festival in Bucharest, which culminated in the “March for Diversity” (online photos at: http://www.gabrielasabau.com/?p=172)

ACCEPT used the event to renew its demand for the state to provide same-sex partners with the rights that are currently acquired through marriage. Both marriage and its accompanying rights are denied to gay and lesbian couples in Romania.

Unlike in previous years, when opponents of LGBT rights tried to violently interrupt the march and police took more than 100 people into custody, this year’s march took place without major incidents. Police detained over 40 people who refused to show their IDs and whom they suspected might interfere with the march.

Two ACCEPT volunteers were subject to a homophobic attack after the march in Bucharest.

The march was attended by European Parliament member and head of the LGBT Intergroup, Michael Cashman, Swedish Ambassador Mats Aberg, and Rev. Diane Fisher from the Metropolitan Community Church, among others.

As in previous years, the “March for Normality,” an authorized antigay demonstration, took place earlier the same day in Bucharest. Over 200 people attended. (Online photos at: http://www.nouadreapta.org/actiuni_prezentare.php?idx=194)

The “March for Normality” was organized by the neo-fascist group The New Right (in Romanian “Noua Dreapta”) which, in addition to displaying anti-gay signs, also displayed neo-fascist signs that are illegal in Romania, such as the stylized Celtic cross—the symbol of the New Right—and a portrait of Corneliu Zelea Codreanu, leader of the anti-Semitic, ultra-nationalist, and fascist Iron Guard Movement (1927-41), which inspired the New Right's doctrine.

About 1200 police ensured the security of both marches on Saturday.

Although the Romanian NGO ProVita filed a lawsuit last week attempting to outlaw the LGBT march, the court postponed the hearing until after the march on procedural grounds. Two other, smaller anti-gay marches were organized last week, one on Monday by the Romanian Christian-Orthodox organization ROST, and one on Sunday by the Conservative Party—a political party represented in the Romanian Parliament.

Florentina Bocioc, ACCEPT’s executive director, says that unlike in the past, this year’s LGBT march was reported in the media in a neutral manner and was not accompanied by violent incidents. “Bystanders were rather curious, as opposed to outraged by the march,” she said. “Those living in the buildings along the streets on which we marched, no longer threw eggs, tomatoes, or stones at us; some of them even waved at us. This is a small step towards ‘normality’.”