Latvia chooses homophobe for human rights role

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Gay campaigners in the European Union have criticised the Latvian Parliament after it confirmed the nomination of Janis Smits for the post of chairperson of the Parliamentary Human Rights and Social Affairs Committee, despite his history of hate speech and incitements to hatred and violence against the gay community.

The European Parliament’s Intergroup on Gay and Lesbian Rights has urged the Latvian Parliament to reconsider its choice, asking the Latvian Parliament to follow the courageous acts of its European counterpart when it refused to accept the nomination of Rocco Buttiglione for similar reasons.

The European Parliament’s Intergroup on Gay and Lesbian Rights deplored the confirmation as an insult to those who believe in a European Union founded upon the principles of human rights, diversity, and equality.

“Clearly, such an important position, one of the highest level posts in the Latvian legislature to handle issues of human rights and social affairs, should be held by an individual who protects and promotes the values enshrined by the Universal Declaration on Human Rights,” said Raul Romeva, Vice-President of the Intergroup on Gay and Lesbian Rights.

Indeed, the current European Commission had to be reshuffled following the Parliament’s opposition to the candidature of Mr Buttiglione for the post of Commissioner for Justice, Freedom, and Security because of his strict conservative views on moral issues such as homosexuality.

“Mr Buttiglione’s views were not in line with EU values on equality, human rights, and the separation of church and state. He could clearly not be in charge of promoting fundamental rights,” said Sophie In’t Veld, Vice-President of the Intergroup on Gay and Lesbian Rights and Chair of the European Parliament’s Working Group on the Separation between Religion and Politics.

In Parliamentary debates, Janis Smits frequently quotes the Old Testament in defence of his old-fashioned values arguing in favour of a world-view that advocates sexual minorities should be put to death. “Mr. Janis Smits has been a vocal opponent to universal human rights, advocating a world in which gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender peoples have no rights to protection, no rights to exist,” said Michael Cashman, President of the Intergroup on Gay and Lesbian Rights,

“It is our common duty, as politicians, to ensure that we do not make grave errors of judgement by selecting individuals who are ill suited to take charge of such crucial dossiers.”