April 3, 2014 | by Michael K. Lavers
Georgian prime minister seeks marriage amendment

Irakli Vacharadze, Georgia, gay news, Washington Blade

Georgian LGBT rights advocate Irakli Vacharadze. (Photo courtesy of Irakli Vacharadze)

Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili last week proposed a constitutional amendment that would define marriage as between a man and a woman in the former Soviet republic.

Identoba, a Georgian LGBT advocacy group, noted Garibashvili announced “the homophobic intention of his government” to amend the country’s constitution as he spoke about an anti-discrimination measure his administration sent to the Georgian Parliament. The organization added the proposed amendment “can only be seen as a homophobic move” because Georgian law already bans same-sex marriage.

“If the amendment is successfully initiated, it will directly violate universal equality of single parents, LGBT community and many others who do not live in nuclear families,” said Identoba. “Alarmingly, this homophobic and cynical move ultimately kills the very spirit of equality protection of the incoming Anti-Discrimination Law.”

Identoba Executive Director Irakli Vacharadze told the Washington Blade he feels Garibashvili introduced the proposed marriage amendment as a way to mobilize “hater-voters” ahead of local elections that are slated to take place in June.

“They are [the] majority,” said Vacharadze. “Even if it doesn’t go to Parliament, the damage is already done: The ‘attack them’ message is out. Everyone in the coalition said they’d vote in favor of the change.”

Georgia, which continues to seek closer ties with the European Union and NATO, has been a member of the Council of Europe since 1999.

Croatian voters last December approved a constitutional amendment that defines marriage as between a man and a woman. Hungary, Latvia and other E.U. countries also prohibit gay nuptials.

Same-sex couples can currently marry in Iceland, England, Wales, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Spain and Portugal. Irish voters next year are scheduled to vote on whether gays and lesbians can exchange vows in their country.

Georgia’s hate crimes law includes both sexual orientation and gender identity. The former Soviet republic’s anti-employment discrimination statute also includes gay-specific protections.

“Constitutional bans are highly symbolic measures to enshrine discrimination in law and to prevent debates on recognition for same-sex couples,” said ILGA-Europe Executive Director Evelyne Paradise in response to Garibashvili’s proposed marriage amendment. “These bans are largely tools used by those who oppose equality for LGBTI people to institutionalize discrimination against LGBTI people.”

Anti-LGBT violence remains a serious concern for Georgian advocates.

Thousands of people attacked a few dozen LGBT rights advocates who tried to stage a rally in Tbilisi, the country’s capital, last May as they tried to commemorate the annual International Day Against Homophobia.

Vacharadze told the Blade that Georgian authorities have yet to arrest anyone connected with the aforementioned violence. He also noted lawmakers in neighboring Russia on Wednesday announced they plan to amend the Russian constitution to ban same-sex marriage.

“One should really [not] try to look worse than Russia in this regard,” said Vacharadze. “Georgia has managed to do it.”

Michael K. Lavers has been a staff writer for the Washington Blade since May 2012. The passage of Maryland's same-sex marriage law, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the burgeoning LGBT rights movement in Latin America and the consecration of gay New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson are among the many stories he has covered since his career began in 2002. Follow Michael

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