Georgian parliament gives initial approval to sweeping curbs on LGBTQ rights



Georgia’s parliament on Thursday gave its initial approval to a set of bills containing sweeping curbs on LGBTQ rights, including bans on the “propaganda” of same-sex relationships and gender-transition surgery.

The package, which was proposed by the ruling Georgian Dream party and which could outlaw Pride events and public displays of the LGBTQ rainbow flag, was approved by a majority of deputies. It must pass two more readings before becoming law.

Parliamentary speaker Shalva Papuashvili said earlier this month that lawmakers would only vote on the bills’ second and third readings during the autumn parliamentary session, in the immediate run-up to a general election scheduled for Oct. 26.

He has said the bills are necessary to control “LGBT propaganda” which he said was “altering traditional relations”.

The legislation would also ban nonheterosexual people from adopting children and prevent people from changing their gender on ID documents. Public gatherings promoting same-sex relationships would not be allowed either.

If approved, “LGBT propaganda” in the education system would be outlawed and broadcasters banned from showing intimate scenes involving same-sex relationships.

LGBTQ rights are controversial in deeply religious Georgia, where the country’s Orthodox Church enjoys wide public respect.

Opinion polling shows widespread disapproval of same-sex relationships, while Tbilisi’s annual Pride march has repeatedly faced physical attacks by conservative protesters. Georgia’s constitution bans same-sex marriage.

Giorgi Tabagari, founder of Tbilisi Pride, said that the bills would make life “unbearable” for LGBTQ Georgians.

He said: “The future for queer people in Georgia looks rather gloomy if the anti-LGBT bills are adopted.”

The vote comes amid political tension in the South Caucasus country after a series of huge protests against a bill on “foreign agents” that was signed into law earlier this month.

The proposed measures are likely to fuel European Union and U.S. concerns about Georgia’s political direction, following their criticism of the foreign agent law that critics see as Russian-inspired and repressive.

The European Union’s ambassador to Georgia said last week the country’s process to join the bloc had been effectively halted by the legislation.

Traditionally pro-Western since independence following the 1991 Soviet collapse, Georgia has recently moved to restore ties with Russia, which has imposed its own curbs on LGBTQ rights.

The Georgian government has said that the foreign agent law was necessary in order to combat “pseudo-liberal” values imposed by foreigners, and to promote Georgian sovereignty.

Opposition parties, most of which have been boycotting parliament, have described the anti-LGBTQ bills as an attempt by Georgian Dream to appeal to conservative-minded voters ahead of the autumn vote.



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