Bulgaria: Hundreds march for gay rights and against Russian anti-gay laws

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Several hundred protesters took to the streets of Sofia, Bulgaria, on Saturday, to rally for LGBT rights, and in protest against Russian anti-gay laws.

The demonstrators walked peacefully through the capital city, and were protected by hundreds of police officers following calls from extremist groups to stop the event.

Revellers displayed colourful banners which called for love, equality and sexual diversity.

Slogans against Russian anti-gay laws introduced earlier this year were chanted, and To Russia With Love signs were carried by marchers.

A pride march was planned to take place back in June, but the organising committee of Sofia Pride announced that the march would be postponed due to protest rallies against government corruption, which had gone on for over a week.

The Balkan country of 7.3 millon people joined the EU in 2007, but gay and lesbian people still face hostility.

Today’s march was criticised by the Orthodox Church, which said it undermined Christian traditions.

Last year, the fifth annual Pride in Sofia was marred by calls for violence from Father Evgeni Yanakiev of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, to which most Bulgarians belong.

Father Yanakiev said: “Our whole society must in every possible way oppose the gay parade that is being planned. For this reason today I appeal to all those who consider themselves Christians and Bulgarians. Throwing stones at gays is an appropriate way.”

President Vladimir Putin signed the law in June banning the promotion of “non-traditional relationships” toward minors, a move that has been criticised as part of a broader crackdown on Russia’s gay community.