Latvians march for LGBT rights, civil partnership law

Riga, Jun 18 (EFE).- At least 5,000 people gathered in a historic park in Riga to mark the end of the LGTB Pride week in solidarity with Ukraine.

The mostly young attendees carried rainbow flags and some Ukrainian banners and chanted slogans in favor of the Baltic country adopting a bill legalizing same-sex civil unions, which parliament has blocked.

Riga’s mayor Martins Stakis addressed the demonstrators and affirmed the importance of choosing the “right values” which he defined as “European” and “Western”, in contrast with those seen “beyond the eastern border”, in reference to Russia.

Stakis, elected as part of the liberal platform For Development (APar), which he later left due to internal disputes, is the first Riga mayor to speak out in public at an LGBT Pride event since they began in 2005, something that most Latvian politicians have avoided doing until now.

This time, however, political representatives such as health minister Daniels Pavluts and European Parliament member Ivars Ijabs, both from APar, also took part in the march.

A handful of counter-demonstrators lined the route with banners in English and Latvian warning that “sin will destroy you”.

Kristina Garina, an LGBT rights activist who helped organize the march, told Efe that the atmosphere has changed a lot since the first demonstrations in 2005 and 2006, which were met with violent incidents and hostility from a large number of counter-demonstrators.

“This is looking more and more like a normal celebration and a carnival,” a participant in the march told Efe.

Earlier this month, the Latvian parliament, or Saeima, blocked a bill to legalize same-sex civil unions twice, after one of the ruling coalition partners abstained from the vote to prevent a quorum from passing the draft.
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According to a 2021 poll, public opinion in Latvia is divided, with 42% favoring LGBT couples’ access to civil unions, while 43% are against.EFE