Last edited: February 14, 2005

Special Christmas for Romanian Gays

By Jon ben Asher Newscenter in London, December 26, 2001

Bucharest—Romanian gays and lesbians celebrated Christmas with family and then with friends in the clubs, much like their counterparts in most other western countries. But, this Christmas was different. It was the first time they did not fear being rounded up by police and sent to prison.

The government has finally scrapped the law which criminalized homosexuality.

The notorious Article 200 of the Penal Code was conceived during the repressive Communist regime of Nicolae Ceausescu. It was used to harass and imprison thousands of gay and lesbian people.

But, it took 12 agonizing years after the fall of Ceausescu for the law to be repealed.

Romania’s gay rights group ACCEPT led the campaign against the law. But, the greatest pressure came from European Union .

Christmas night Heaven, Bucharest’s new new gay nightclub was packed.

"I am really happy we have got a club where we can meet, have fun and feel free," said one customer.

"Everyone has a right to their freedom and that includes their sexuality," said another.

"I feel good—it is super."

But while the government has voided anti-gay legislation, the burgeoning gay community must find its place in Romanian life, and it will take work to change long held attitudes.

Last year a public opinion poll found that 86% of Romanians would not want a gay or lesbian person as their neighbour.

The Orthodox Church still exerts huge influence in Romania. When politicians debated Article 200, the voice of the church was equally loud. It warned of the dangers to Romania and to the family.

Senior priests say laws and punishment are still necessary to stop what they call ‘ gay propaganda’.

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