LGBT rights in Latvia

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LGBT rights in Latvia
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Same-sex sexual activity legal? Legal since 1992
Gender identity/expression -
Recognition of
relationships
No recognition of same-sex couples
Restrictions:
2005 constitutional amendment limits marriage to man/woman
Adoption No joint adoption by same-sex couples
Military service Gays and lesbians allowed to serve openly
Discrimination protections Sexual orientation protection in employment (see below)

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons in Latvia may face legal challenges not experienced by non-LGBT residents. Both male and female same-sex sexual activity are legal in Latvia, but households headed by same-sex couples are not eligible for the same legal protections available to opposite-sex couples.

The democratization process in Latvia has allowed lesbians and gays to establish organizations and infrastructural elements such as bars, clubs, stores, libraries, etc. Cultural, educational and other events can be held, and lifestyles can be freely developed. However, society has not reached a high level of tolerance.[1]

Laws against homosexuality

Male homosexuality was considered a criminal offence and a mental illness in Latvia during the Soviet period. In 1992, soon after Latvia regained independence from the Soviet Union, homosexuality was decriminalised.[2] The age of consent is 14 for those under 18, 16 for those over 18 regardless of gender and/or sexuality.

Gender identity/expression

It is allowed to change legal gender in Latvia if a person can provide a medical document proving his gender was fully changed[3].

Recognition of same-sex relationships

Latvia does not recognise same-sex marriage, nor any form of same-sex partnership.

In 2006 Latvia amended its constitution to prohibit same-sex marriage.[4] Article 110 of the Latvian Constitution formerly read, "The State shall protect and support marriage, the family, the rights of parents and rights of the child. The State shall provide special support to disabled children, children left without parental care or who have suffered from violence." [5] The first sentenced of Article 110 was amended to read, "The State shall protect and support marriage – a union between a man and a woman, the family, the rights of parents and rights of the child." [6]

Adoption and family planning

Couples must be married to adopt in Latvia.

Military service

Homosexuals are not officially banned from military service.

Discrimination protections

In September 2006, Latvia's parliament, the Saeima, passed amendments to the Labour Code prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in workplace. The Saeima had initially omitted such protection, but President Vaira VÄ«Ä·e-Freiberga refused to sign the bill until it was added.[7] At the time, Latvia was the last country in the European Union to introduce anti-discrimination laws dealing with sexual orientation.

Living conditions

Only in the capital, Riga, is there a small gay scene. Elsewhere in Latvia, however, the sparse population means there is no gay scene. There are only few people who openly recognize themselves being gay or lesbian, for example journalist Kārlis Streips, and former deputy rector of the Riga Graduate School of Law Linda Freimane.

Most people in Latvia have prejudices against homosexuality, usually rooted in social conservatism and lingering preconceptions dating from the Soviet period. An example of this is the belief that homosexuality and pedophilia are linked phenomena.[8][9] Such popularly-held anti-gay sentiments have recently been increasingly exploited by various religious groups[10][11] and politicians.[4]

Lesbians and gays are often attacked in the streets or in the meeting places. Lesbians and gays can make no criminal charge against their attackers other than "hooliganism".[12] Until 1996, it was also legal to beat homosexuals, as long as they followed Rule of Thumb.[12] As well, people who were raped by a person, or persons, of the same sex could not file a police report.[12]

In 2002, Māris Sants, an openly gay minister, was defrocked and excommunicated from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia.[13][14] Archbishop Jānis Vanags later declared in a public statement, "Why Māris Sants was fired",[15] that Sants was not removed from office because he was gay, but because he in his sermons publicly promoted, instead of condemning, the "sinful" homosexual "lifestyle." When pastor Juris Cālītis, then also dean of the University of Latvia's Faculty of Theology, not only publicly criticised the improper way in which Sants's case was handled by the Church Synod, but also allowed Sants to co-officiate in a church service, Cālītis, too, was removed from office and expelled from the church by Vanags.[16] This case helped to create a public debate in Latvia regarding the need for legislation to protect LGBT persons from discrimination by employers.

Over the last three years, there have been violent attacks against individuals in lesbian and gay bars and cafes, police representatives have conducted unauthorized raids against such establishments to check documents and search for weapons, during the course of which establishments are often closed down and patrons are humiliated.

Due to prevailing negative attitudes in society, and particularly the violent actions of a vocal anti-LGBT minority (e.g. National Power Unity), there is a fear that further lobbying for the rights of sexual minorities will provoke an even stronger backlash. In a February 2007 survey of 537 LGBT persons in Latvia, 82% of respondents said they were not in favour of holding the planned Riga Pride and Friendship Days 2007, while only 7% felt that these events would help promote tolerance against sexual minorities.[17] Nevertheless, Pride took place in 2007; in contrast with the counterprotestors who greatly outnumbered Pride attendees in 2005, and the banning of Pride ceremonies in 2006, the 2007 Pride was peaceable and the 500 pridegoers outnumbered around 100 counterprotestors. However, a simultaneous anti-Pride event attracted around 1000 attendees.[18]

LGBT rights movement in Latvia

Following public manifestations of homophobia surrounding Riga Pride in 2005,[19] some members of the LGBT community, their friends, and family members united to found the organisation Mozaīka[20] in order to promote tolerance towards sexual minorities and LGBT rights in Latvia's society. In response, an umbrella organisation for co-ordinating anti-LGBT rights activism in Latvia, NoPride, was formed in the run-up to Riga Pride and Friendship Days 2006.

Public opinion

A Eurobarometer survey published on December 2006 showed that 12% of Latvians surveyed support same-sex marriage and 8% recognise same-sex couples' right to adopt (EU-wide average 44% and 32%).[21]

Summary table

Homosexuality legal Yes Since 1992
Equal age of consent Yes
Anti-discrimination laws in employment Yes Since 2006
Anti-discrimination laws in the provision of goods and services No
Anti-discrimination laws in all other areas (incl. indirect discrimination, hate speech) No
Recognition of same-sex marriage No Constitutional ban since 2005
Recognition of same-sex couples No
Adoption by single homosexuals Yes Unknown in practice [22]
Adoption by same-sex couples No Only married couples may adopt
Gays allowed to serve in the military Yes
Right to change legal gender Yes
Access to IVF for lesbians No
MSMs allowed to donate blood Yes[23]

See also

References

  1. Tapinsh, Aleks (2007-06-04). Homophobic Attitudes Remain Entrenched. Transitions Online. Retrieved on 2008-02-20.
  2. ILGA-Europe, country page for Latvia (accessed 13 May 2007).
  3. http://www.lv.lv/index.php?menu=doc&id=201514
  4. 4.0 4.1 Laura Sheeter, "Latvia defies EU over gay rights", BBC News website, 16 June 2006.
  5. http://www.saeima.lv/LapasEnglish/Constitution_Visa.htm
  6. http://www.saeima.lv/Likumdosana_eng/likumdosana_satversme.html
  7. The text of these amendments is available online from the official website of the Saeima and the portal POLITIKA.LV.
  8. nopride.lv, "The Homosexual Movement And Pedophilia" (accessed 13 May 2007).
  9. Gunta Briede, fragments of an interview with psychologist and LGBT rights activist Jolanta Cihanoviča , DELFI.lv, 2 September 2005 (accessed 13 May 2007).
  10. High Profile Meeting. New Generation Church (2007-03-10). Retrieved on 2008-03-18.
  11. Tony Grew, Cardinal: homosexuality a form of prostitution, Pink News, 9 May 2007 (accessed 6 June 2007)
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 ILGA-Europe, Euro-Letter 41, May 1996.
  13. GayRussia.ru, "Latvian Priest strongly supports the Riga Gay Pride", interview with M. Sants, 17 July 2006 (accessed 13 May 2007).
  14. Barbara Oertel, "Der lange Marsch zum Coming-out" , interview with M. Sants, Die Tageszeitung, 23 July 2005 (accessed 13 May 2007).
  15. Vanags, Jānis (4 June 2002). Kādēļ atstādināja Māri Santu (Latvian). Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia. Archived from the original on 9 October 2006. Retrieved on 31 August 2009.
  16. Juris Lavrikovs, "Leading Latvian pastor excommunicated from the church for supporting gays", ILGA-Europe website, 17 November 2005 (accessed 13 May 2007).
  17. ILGA-Latvia Survey Working Group, poll conducted 1–28 February 2007. From ILGA-Latvia website (accessed 13 May 2007).
  18. 365gay.com
  19. "Protests disrupt Latvia gay march", bbc.co.uk, 23 July 2005.
  20. Mozaīka English-language homepage
  21. European Commission, Eurobarometer 66: First Results, December 2006.
  22. http://www.tvnet.lv/onlinetv/lnt/zinas/article.php?id=299853
  23. http://www.vadc.gov.lv/kad_nedrikst.htm

Sources

External links

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