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Georgia moves forward with bills to outlaw Pride events & trans people

TBILISI, GEORGIA - MAY 17, 2018: Family day. People attend a rally marking the Day of Family Purity and opposing the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia
TBILISI, GEORGIA - MAY 17, 2018: Family day. People attend a rally marking the Day of Family Purity and opposing the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia Photo: Shutterstock

Georgia’s parliament on Thursday pushed ahead a sweeping package of bills that would effectively outlaw LGBTQ+ identity in the former Soviet republic.

The set of bills proposed by the ruling pro-Putin Georgian Dream party bans depictions of same-sex relationships in the media, outlaws gender-affirming surgery, and will make Pride events and the public display of the Pride flag in Georgia a thing of the past.

Parliamentary speaker Shalva Papuashvili describes the bills as necessary to control “LGBT propaganda,” which he said was “altering traditional relations.”

The first reading of the bill titled “On the Protection of Family Values ​​and Minors,” which draws heavily from Russia’s anti-LGBTQ+ “propaganda” law passed last year, drew widespread support among Georgia Parliament deputies. The bill is scheduled for second and third readings in the fall.

In addition to outlawing public gatherings “promoting” same-sex relationships, the legislation would also limit adoption to heterosexuals, ban gender changes on official identification, and outlaw “LGBT propaganda” in education.

Georgian Dream MPs have also proposed introducing “genetic” requirements in establishing legal marriage, whereby marriage would be a union of a “genetic woman” and a “genetic man.”

The Constitution already bans same-sex marriage in Georgia, where the deeply conservative Orthodox Church holds outsized influence in the government and public sphere.

Georgia enjoyed decades of progress on human and LGBTQ+ rights following the Rose Revolution in 2003, as a majority of citizens supported a pro-Western turn and integration into the European Union and NATO.

The rise of the Georgian Dream party in the last ten years, however, has seen the government reorienting toward Russia, with the Church encouraging the rapprochement.

Georgia’s version of Putin’s draconian “LGBT propaganda” law seems designed not only to roll back progress on LGBTQ+ rights but to scuttle any hope of Georgia entering the European Union, with its strict requirements upholding civil liberties and personal freedoms.  

The introduction of the anti-LGBTQ+ legislation follows the Georgia Parliament’s passage of another Russian-inspired law to label Western NGOs “foreign agents,” teeing up a harassment campaign aimed at expelling human rights and other groups that far-right conservatives and the Orthodox Church have accused of infecting Georgia and other countries with “degeneracy.”

Speaking of opponents of the nascent legislation in March, Mamuka Mdinaradze, leader of the Georgian Dream parliamentary majority, said, “Even if they brand the law against LGBT ‘propaganda’ not Russian, but Soviet, we will follow it through, given that it is the biggest challenge of modern times.”

Anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment runs high among extremists in the onetime Soviet vassal. In 2021 and 2023, violent mobs shut down Pride marches in the capital Tbilisi.

Organizers say foreign agents, delivered by Russian President Vladimir Putin, joined far-right fascist political gangs and members of the Georgian Orthodox church to sabotage the peaceful demonstration. Hundreds were injured in the two incidents.

Rights groups and supporters described the attacks as “pogroms.”

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