Last edited: February 14, 2005

International Conference Opens in Romania

Only Tiny Protest Outside as Annual Gathering Begins

Washington Blade, October 5, 2000

By Will O’Bryan

BUCHAREST, Romania — The International Lesbian and Gay Association-Europe started its 22nd annual conference Wednesday amid media enthusiasm and a small protest. According to Adrian Coman, director of the Romanian host organization ACCEPT, about seven detractors he described as Christian nationalists stood outside the conference site hotel waving banners against legalizing homosexuality. The Romanian Senate has yet to vote on abolishing Article 200, the law that prohibits "same-sex relations" if they cause "public scandal."

In the wake of Wednesdays brief protest, which occurred prior to the arrival of the roughly 100 conference attendees, a handful of Romanian police in gray camouflage uniforms have been standing guard near the entrance of the conference at the Best Western Hotel Parc.

"We thought that there might be opposition protests," Coman said. "Before the conference, we contacted the minister of the interior and the mayor of Bucharest," said Coman, explaining that guards were at the ready.

Despite the minor controversy, the mood inside the site was jovial Wednesday as conference participants arrived later Wednesday from across Europe. ACCEPT counted 54 domestic and international media outlets at their pre-meeting press conference Wednesday morning.

"This opposition is not strong," said Coman, despite the fact that he has also received a string of verbal threats on his personal phone number this week, which he says the police are investigating. "There is no public support [for the opposition]. In general, Romanians are not very sympathetic to ... [Article 200]."

Beyond Romanian politics, a broader theme of the ILGA-Europe conference is finding ways for Gays in Western Europe to assist their counterparts in Eastern Europe, such as workshops focusing on using European Union measures that demand member states protect residents from discrimination based on sexual orientation.

As an example, Romania has applied to join the European Union. The European Commission of the EU pointed to Article 200 as a hurdle to possible ascension to the Union, stating "the Romanian penal code has still to be brought in line with European standards on issues such as homosexuality." The EU has also been critical of Bulgaria, Cyprus, and Hungary on similar sexual orientation related grounds.

The ILGA-Europe 22nd annual conference runs through Sunday, Oct. 8.

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