The Orthodox Church in the deeply conservative country of Georgia has attacked a Pride march as aiming “to legalise grave sin”.
According to Civil Georgia, the Georgian Orthodox Church (GOC) issued a statement on Tuesday (29 June), asking the European Parliament Intergroup on LGBT+ Rights as well as the heads of embassies in Georgia to “refrain from supporting and encouraging Tbilisi Pride”.
Pride celebrations in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, are set to take place between 1 and 5 July, 2021. On the final day, a “March of Dignity” will take place.
The statement said: “The organisers of the planned ‘Pride‘ are propagating a non-traditional way of life under the guise of protecting human rights… [Pride] conflicts with socially recognised moral norms and aims to legalise grave sin.”
The Orthodox church suggested that Tbilisi Pride should be banned, calling on Georgia’s government “to act in the interests of state stability and civil peace, and to avoid destabilising the country and public life”.
The GOC added that it is “unacceptable to admit sin and try to influence others”, and said the march “confuses universal values… which has a drastic negative impact on the psyche of minors and undermines the best interests of children”.
The first-ever Pride in Georgia was thwarted by threats of far-right violence
Georgia has a dark history of violence towards LGBT+ people, and when queer folk in Tbilisi attempted to host the country’s first Pride in 2019, the march had to be cancelled after an anti-gay millionaire rallied homophobes to bring wooden clubs.
In the end, a small group of campaigners gathered for just half an hour in front of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, but organisers were still positive about the rally’s impact.
One co-organiser, Giorgi Tabagari, told Reuters at the time: “It changed a lot in terms of [the] amount of people who went out, but it didn’t change the messages we had to say and it didn’t change the spirit and it didn’t change the visibility.”
This year, Tbilisi Pride shared its demands for the government of Georgia on the Facebook event for the 5 July March of Dignity: “To ensure the implementation of citizen-oriented politics; to take the responsibility and create an equal environment free of homophobia, stigma and discrimination; to ensure the proper investigation of all hate crimes and ensure justice; to ensure the safety of each citizen and defend the right to assembly, regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity.”
The group added: “Social movements have repeatedly been able to mobilise, show solidarity and support each other, especially in times of crisis caused by the pandemic.
“We see each other’s needs and tackle the challenges together. Now is the time for the whole society to come together and create an environment, where all people are equal and everyone has the opportunity to live with dignity, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.
“We believe that the solution is solidarity! That is why we, the community members, our family members and supporters proudly announce that we come out for solidarity!”