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Belgrade LGBT Activists Plan Pride, While History of Violence Looms Large

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Belgrade Pride has a history replete with violence and disruption and yet, planning proceeds while a newly elected right-wing government struggles to form a majority in parliament

 

On June 27, members of the LGBT community in Belgrade gathered to commemorate International Pride Day. They carried banners and balloons in the street and publicized the slogan “Silence will not stop us.” A rainbow flag waved from the office of Serbia’s ombudsman, who is tasked with protecting human rights. Yet this was not Belgrade’s official Pride parade. That is scheduled for September 30-October 7 and will include, in addition to a parade, workshops, fashion shows, debates, and exhibitions. Indeed, planning for the event is in full swing.

Yet the event sits against a bleak historical backdrop. Prides in Serbia have been among the most controversial and violent in the world. In 2001, at the first Belgrade Pride, parade participants were attacked by football hooligans and right-wing groups in a terrifying display of homophobia.  Another Pride would not be planned until 2009, but that year’s event was canceled due to threats of more violence and a lack of cooperation from the police.

The parade went ahead in 2010 and was again besieged; police tasked with providing security for Pride clashed with hundreds of anti-gay protesters, who also attacked government and media facilities. And last year, the government again canceled Pride in the name of security, just 48 hours before it was scheduled to take place. So high-profile has Serbia’s Pride become that, in late 2011, a local director released the movie Parada (“The Parade”), a comedy-cum-drama in which a Serb ex-combatant from the 1990s agrees to provide security for a Pride organizer.

What will happen to Belgrade Pride 2012? Given the historical context as well as a newly elected Serbian president Tomislav Nikolić, who is more right-wing than his predecessor (he was once an ally of Slobodan Milosevic and Vojislav Seselj), it is a critical question for the LGBT community.  So I put it, along with other queries, to Boban Stojanović, a member of the Belgrade Pride Organizing Committee.

NCRM:  Did you face any protests or other backlash on June 27 when you held Pride Day events?

Stojanović: No. It was strange, most people were very positive.

NCRM: Why do you think Belgrade Pride has faced so many obstacles and threats from some people in Serbia?

Stojanović:  Because we are young democracy. We don’t have clear rules about anything, we cannot decide are we want to be pro-EU and pro-USA or pro-Russian. As a society, when we decide this [our orientation toward the world], we will have idea what to do with human rights.  Until then, we will give support to human rights but to nationalists and fundamentalists also.

Also, criminals and hooligans are connected with the state. During the 1990s, most of the politicians [today] were connected with war criminals, leaders of paramilitary troops, criminals, and narco dealers. … This is the base of hate toward LGBT in Serbia. … [People] need enemies.

NCRM: Belgrade Pride was banned by the government last year due to threats of violence. What did you, as organizers of Pride, think about this decision? How did you respond to the decision?

Stojanović:  Banning of Pride last year was the result of unstable state policy, and it just encouraged us to insist on our rights. The announcing of Belgrade Pride 2012 is more than a clear massage to this banning.

NCRM: Have government authorities and police been cooperating with the 2012 Pride organizers? Do you worry they might cancel Pride again?

Stojanović:  We don’t have a new government yet, after elections in May of this year. Tomislav Nikolic, a nationalist politician, was elected president and is still forming a new government.] But we are prepared and we will start with negotiators immediately. There are some positive things: Even though we are still a conservative society, there is some recognition about the importance of joining to EU [which requires meeting certain human rights benchmarks]. Also, because the election has passed, there is less tension than before. As for whether Pride will be banned or not, it is a state decision. We … deeply believe that Pride will happen.

NCRM: What do you think Nikolic’s election will mean for LGBT rights and issues in Serbia?

Stojanović:  Not so much. Until we have educated and professional people in important decision-making positions, things will be same. …. A general problem with Serbian institutions is some kind of pink-washing: a lot of words and promises but no concrete results. Last year, during the preparation of Pride, when some journalists asked some politicians, “Do you support Pride?” their answer was, “Violence is unacceptable.” And in 2010, an ex-minister for Human and Minority Rights, after so many meetings and big support to Pride, asked us, “Well, what exactly does the acronym ‘LGBT’ mean?”

NCRM: Are you concerned about the security of participants in the 2012 Pride? Or about how the events might affect members of the LGBT community in their daily lives? If you are concerned, what steps are being taken to protect individuals?

Stojanović:  The police have good tools to protect participants… [and] as organizers, we make a list with suggestions of how any person can increase his/her security at Pride. It is something what is standard at these events in this part of Europe. Pride is [one of] the biggest issue for LGBT people. We can speak in so many debates, round tables, but Pride can open huge public discussion about LGBT existence and rights. Pride can open discussion everywhere: in the office, classrooms, street, in families. It is good. We hope for two results: encouraging people to come out and increasing the number of people, mostly young people, who are willing to register violence.

NCRM: What is the slogan of this year’s Pride? Why was it chosen?

Stojanović:  [I will] quote one wonderful author, Marcus V. Agar, who wrote in his article: “Love, faith and hope: three universal human values that Belgrade Pride organizers hope will encourage greater positive interest in the lives, rights and issues of Serbia’s gay community. Working beneath this banner, they intend to present Pride as a meter by which to measure civil rights, freedom and democracy in the country. In an effort to move forward from last year, when Serbia’s government slammed an internationally condemned ban on a proposed parade through Belgrade, Pride chiefs have opted for a more approachable Ljubav, Vera, Nada re-brand, hopeful that people from across society will come together to encourage understanding, allay hatred and reduce prejudice of LGBT people in Serbia.”

NCRM:  Why do you think it is important to host Pride, even in the face of dangers? What are hopes for and goals of this year’s event?

Stojanović:  You know, if you look back, only those people and groups who insist on their rights get rights. It is a process. Those people who produce fears, they only want to discourage us. I deeply believe that honesty and love can erase hate. Hopes? Well, to have a nice and colorful Pride and Pride Week, a lot of encouraged people and positive energy in Belgrade. Our idea is to put human rights in focus … to become a place for all LGBT people (and those people who support them) to do whatever they want in order to promote equality for all.

 

Seyward Darby is a freelance writer currently living in Kosovo. She is working for a local human rights group on LGBT and freedom of expression projects with support from the Coca-Cola World Fund and Kirby-Simon Fellowship Program at Yale University. Her organization receives some funding from the U.S. government. 

 

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BREAKING NEWS

Republican Attempts to Create Special Religious Rights Fail as Bipartisan Historic Same-Sex Marriage Bill Passes Senate

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Far right activists and organizations for months have been falsely claiming legislation to protect same-sex marriages would destroy different-sex marriages and take away religious rights from ordinary Americans, but early Tuesday evening on a bipartisan basis the Senate passed the Respect for Marriage Act, 61-36.

The legislation itself is very simple. It essentially leaves in place the status quo on marriage from the Supreme Court’s 2015 Obergefell ruling. Should right wing Supreme Court justices strike that ruling down, the Respect for Marriage Act would require the federal government and states to recognize any marriages that were legal when they were entered, now and in the future.

35 states currently still have same-sex marriage bans on the books. If the Supreme Court overturns Obergefell, many of those could become law immediately.

READ MORE: Franklin Graham’s Ugly Lie Ahead of Senate Vote on Same-Sex Marriage Bill

In order to overcome a Republican-led filibuster Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on Monday agreed to allow three GOP Senators to offer amendments to the legislation, amendments that would have created special religious rights to discriminate.

An amendment from Senator James Lankford (R-OK) failed, as did one from Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Mike Lee (R-UT). 60 votes were needed for each.

Sen. Lee’s was seen by some as the most extreme, and was strongly supported by the anti-LGBTQ hate group Family Research Council and former U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

READ MORE: 37 Senators Just Voted Against a Bill Protecting Same-Sex and Interracial Marriages. All Were Republicans.

Heritage Foundation president Kevin Roberts, in a false claim, had said: “The ‘Respect for Marriage Act’ contains so many infringements and encroachments on religious freedoms and on conscience that Republicans should unite solidly against it. Instead, it should be called the ‘Destruction of Marriage Act.'”

Far right evangelical activist Franklin Graham falsely claimed the “bill strikes a blow at religious freedom for individuals & ministries & is really the ‘Destruction of Marriage Act.'”

The Pennsylvania Family Council wrongly called it “a bill that would redefine marriage and attack religious freedom & Christian social services.”

But despite GOP fear-mongering, the legislation has religious protections built in, protections so strong 20 faith-based organizations including the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the Mormon Church, have supported its passage.

The bill now heads back to the House for a final vote, and then to President Joe Biden, who has said he will sign it into law.

 

 

 

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'WAY LATE'

‘Punditry, Not Leadership’: McConnell Slammed for Refusing to Say if He Would Support Trump in 2024

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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is refusing to say if he would support Donald Trump if he becomes the Republican Party’s presidential nominee in 2024. McConnell spoke in broad terms about antisemitism and white supremacy Tuesday afternoon, a full week to the day after the former president had dinner with the antisemite Kanye West, and the white supremacist Nick Fuentes, but could not bring himself to disavow Trump by name.

“First, let me just say, there is no room in the Republican Party for antisemitism or white supremacy,” McConnell said as he began a press conference, his first remarks about Trump’s dinner with West and Fuentes. “Anyone meeting with people advocating that point of view, in my judgment, are highly unlikely to ever be elected President of the United States.”

McConnell did not mention Trump, and moments later, when CNN’s Manu Raja specifically asked about the former president, McConnell would only repeat his previous statement.

READ MORE: RNC Taps Right Wing Extremists to Head Group Designed to Expand GOP Appeal in Wake of Midterm Losses

“Look, let me just say again, there is simply no room in the Republican Party for antisemitism or white supremacy, and that would apply to all of the leaders in the party who will be seeking offices,” he told CNN’s Raju.

Many were critical of McConnell’s refusal to denounce Trump.

Boston Globe opinion writer Abdallah Fayyad said, “McConnell will absolutely back Trump if he wins the GOP nomination.”

Previously, McConnell had said he would support Trump if he is the GOP’s nominee.

“Notice how McConnell said such a person is ‘highly unlikely’ to be elected, rather than manifestly unfit. He needs to keep his rhetorical options open for Trump getting the nomination again,” observed Media Matters’ Eric Kleefeld.

READ MORE: Questions Swirl Around Herschel Walker as New Report Shows His Georgia Residence Was Rented Out for Over a Decade

Law professor and former president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF), Sherrilyn Ifill says, “McConnell, Pence, McCarthy and the other folks clutching their pearls today stood beside this man. Distancing from Trump over ‘the dinner’ is way late.”

Political consultant and writer Jamison Foser criticized the Republican Minority Leader, saying: “‘Will not likely be elected’ is punditry, not leadership. McConnell will support Trump if Trump is the Republican nominee; everything else is his attempt to distract from that.”

Before McConnell’s remarks, Ifill had taken the media to task.

“The most dispiriting aspect of the discussion about Trump’s meal w/those two odious ppl is that I thought there was consensus that Trump is a white supremacist. In which case 3 white supremacists had dinner. Why is Trump getting portrayed as an innocent who was snookered?”

 

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News

‘Beyond Horrific’: Tucker Carlson’s Fox News Producer Is an Out Gay Man Helping ‘Ramp Up’ Hate Says LGBTQ Journalist

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Fox News propagandist Tucker Carlson, whose nightly show frequently has the largest reach of any on cable news, regularly attacks the LGBTQ community with fear-mongering and hate-filled segments about gay people, transgender people, “groomers” and the latest target: “drag queen story hours.”

His senior executive producer, who oversees Carlson’s media empire at Fox News, is a married, out, gay man named Justin Wells, according to veteran journalist and SiriusXM Progress host Michelangelo Signorile, who is calling it “beyond horrific to think a gay man has helped to shape and widely disseminate a message of hate against LGBTQ people.”

Last week, in the wake of the horrific anti-LGBTQ hate crime mass shooting Carlson hosted a guest, the head of the so-called “Gays Against Groomers,” who told Fox News viewers the attack on LGBTQ people at a gay bar in Colorado Springs was “predictable” and warned that these hate crime massacres will continue, “until we end this evil agenda” of gender-affirming care.

Carlson has repeatedly hosted Jaimee Mitchell, the Gays Against Groomers founder who fear mongers against LGBTQ people, with the apparent consent of Wells, who “helped promulgate the kind of hate that leads to violence,” says Signorile.

READ MORE: Watch: Chasten Buttigieg Says Tucker Carlson Is Focusing on ‘Hate’ After Host’s Latest Anti-Gay Attack on His Husband

“It’s unlikely that any narrative would get broadcast by Tucker without significant buy-in from Justin,” Angelo Carusone, President and CEO of media watchdog Media Matters, told Signorile.

Indeed, referring to the Colorado Springs mass shooting massacre, Signorile noted it is “the same kind of nightclub at which Wells, in years past, danced the night away in Miami Beach and elsewhere, liberating himself from the world outside and surely never imagining he’d be shot dead.”

“Now he’s aided the extremists who deny that sense of safety and liberation to every future generation of queer people,” says Signorile, explaining that “Wells runs the entire Tucker Carlson operation, and is responsible for imprinting the Tucker Carlson brand, which is all about emboldening white heterosexual male grievance, furthering the racist conspiracy of ‘replacement theory’ and pushing an increasingly virulent anti-LGBTQ agenda.”

READ MORE: Tucker Carlson Serves Up 12-Minute Long Homophobic Hate-Filled Rant Attacking Pete Buttigieg Over ‘Equity’

One of Carlson’s frequent LGBTQ targets is Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, who he has called an “unqualified ‘kid’ who ‘breastfeeds,’ and has no business running the agency,” as Mediaite reported.

“And as Carlson further pushed white nationalism, attacked transgender people and embraced Hungary’s authoritarian leader Victor Orban,” Signorile reports, “Wells, in 2021, was named a Vice President at Fox News, in charge of all Carlson product that airs on Fox News TV as well as on Fox’s streaming network, Fox Nation.”

Signorile says, “it’s quite stunning that Wells would work for Carlson, who has a well-known history of visceral homophobia. That’s something that came to light again last year when it became known that Carlson had offered a tribute to Dan White, the assassin of San Francisco supervisor and gay civil rights leader Harvey Milk, in his college yearbook back in 1991, as well as to the late vociferously anti-gay Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina, who whipped up homophobia during the height of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s.”

READ MORE: Tucker Carlson Once Allegedly Bragged He Belonged to a ‘Society’ Named After the Man Who Assassinated Harvey Milk

“I wrote about those jarring revelations when they surfaced last year,” he continues, “as well as about what I dubbed Carlson’s ‘pathological obsession with homosexuality’ throughout his career. Carlson has expressed revulsion at homosexuality, and in one incident he reveled in a violent response. In a TV interview in 2007 he described having smashed a man’s head ‘against the stall’ in a public rest room, after the man ‘bothered’ him.”

“Wells, as a gay man, only emboldens Carlson further,” Signorile concludes. “He gives him permission to launch the ugly attacks and helps Carlson validate, for himself (and likely for executives at Fox News), the vitriol he espouses. That makes Justin Wells’ presence as the powerful gay man behind Tucker Carlson all the more newsworthy. And all the more dangerous.”

Signorile notes that his reporting is not an outing.

“This story is not, however, about a warped closet case, tormented by self-loathing, hiding his true self while bashing those like him. And thus, this story is not an outing, which involves exposing someone who covers up their sexual orientation while publicly presenting as heterosexual — though it certainly may be a startling revelation to a great many. It is, rather, about connecting the dots regarding a reality that seems to have been hiding in plain sight.”

You can read Signorile’s entire report on his Substack newsletter.

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