Last edited: February 14, 2005

Romania Homosexuals Coming Out

Associated Press, September 14, 2000

By Alison Mutler

BUCHAREST, Romania—Florin Buhuceanu was studying to become a theologian, until he decided to stop hiding the fact that he is gay.

Two years after quitting theology school, Buhuceanu, 30, does not regret publicly announcing his sexual preference—a very rare decision in Romania. He now runs the country’s only organization to promote gay rights, even though he lost friends and receives abusive telephone calls.

While his thinking brings him closer to the Europe of which Romania desires to be a part, it puts him at odds with the influential Romanian Orthodox Church, whose top clergy this week are fighting to convince lawmakers that homosexual behavior must be kept illegal here.

"We want to enter Europe, not Sodom," Bishop Bartolomeu Anania said as the Holy Synod began this week, referring to the biblical city of sexual vice. He wants a national referendum on whether homosexuality should be legal.

"The church rejects tainted love in order to protect and promote the holy love that God desires," Patriarch Teoctist wrote in a letter to parliament. "Europe will receive us at their bosom the way we are," he wrote, urging lawmakers to keep legislation that makes public displays of homosexual behavior illegal.

Still, in June, the Chamber of Deputies scrapped communist-era legislation that discriminates against gays and criminalizes homosexual behavior that causes "a public outrage."

The Senate is expected to vote on the legislation soon, just two months ahead of general elections. Gay activists fear that with elections around the corner, lawmakers may be reluctant to oppose the Orthodox Church, to which almost 90 percent of Romanians belong.

"The Orthodox Church is hypocritical and immoral," said 59-year-old writer Dominic Brezianu, who now lives in Richmond, Calif. "Some of the highest level prelates were notorious for their immoral collaboration (with the communists) and they meet as a synod.... to condemn in their obscure ignorance."

Brezianu fled communist Romania in 1980 because he was harassed by authorities for being a homosexual. Those attitudes linger in Romania, a conservative Balkan society.

A recent poll by the Foundation for an Open Society revealed that 77 percent of Romanians would not want to be the neighbor of a homosexual. But there are also signs that the stranglehold of fear and prejudice is easing.

Romanian newspapers are beginning to write about homosexuals without the intolerance that characterized the early 1990s. Local disco Casablanca is welcoming gays, offering security to the clientele, and Brezianu launched a volume of Homo-erotic poems called "Stopovers" on Tuesday.

The International Gay and Lesbian Association is planning its annual conference in October in Bucharest, which could anger the church and anti-homosexual groups.

In a letter to parliament, Buhuceanu appealed to legislators to put human rights above religious convictions.

"We know that different religious institutions are putting on pressure to maintain anti-homosexual legislation, but Romania is a secular state and your responsibility is to pass laws that respect human rights," he wrote.

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