Swedish gay campaigners slam Latvian PM

Amnesty International and organisers of the ongoing Stockholm Pride gay festival submitted a letter Monday to the Latvian embassy in Sweden protesting recent anti-gay remarks by the Latvian prime minister, Amnesty said.

Comments by Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis were “extremely condescending and grossly homophobic,” David Langlet, an official from Amnesty’s local Swedish branch, told AFP.

Kalvitis criticized a planned gay parade – Riga’s first ever – in a television interview just days before it was to be held.

“For sexual minorities to parade in the very heart of Riga, next to the Doma church, is unacceptable… We cannot promote things like that,” Kalvitis said.

After Kalvitis’ remarks Riga’s city council banned the event. But a court in Riga overturned the city council decision and the parade went ahead.

Langlet said the prime minister’s statements “trigger emotions among the public which justify violence, discrimination and threats against homosexuals.

It is important that politicians … serve as examples. These are opinions that we cannot accept.”

Langlet said the Stockholm Pride organisers and Amnesty officials “were warmly received” by the first secretary of the Latvian embassy on Monday, and described the half-hour talks as “constructive”.

A joint statement by Stockholm Pride and Amnesty, a copy of which was handed to the embassy, said it was “remarkable that a democratic country which recently became a member of the European Union has such narrow-minded and reactionary politicians.”

The two organisations also “remind the Latvian government of their international commitments on human rights” and urged it to allow freedom of speech and assembly.