GayFest features various LGBT cultural events, such as film screenings, art exhibitions, theatre and parties, as well as seminars and debates concerning LGBT social issues; since 2005 the festival has also included a gay pride parade.
The impulsion or luring of another person in viewing the practice of sexual relations between persons of the same sex, as well as propaganda or any other acts of proselytism for the same purpose are punishable with imprisonment between one and five years.
It is important to note, however, that in October 2000, while Article 200 was still in force, ACCEPT hosted the 22nd European Conference of the International Lesbian and Gay Association in Bucharest. The event attracted around 100 participants from 27 countries, and created substantial dialogue and media attention about LGBT rights in Romania.
After pressure from ACCEPT as well as the European Union and the Council of Europe, Article 200 was repealed completely at the end of 2001, removing the last anti-gay law in Romania. Additionally, anti-discrimination legislation introduced in 2000 made it illegal to discriminate against people based on their sexual orientation. This permitted a greater social visibility of LGBT people and culture, with several gay clubs opening from 2002 onwards. In this context, the organisation of a gay pride festival became much more viable, with ACCEPT seeking to use these festivals in order to further enhance the visibility of LGBT people, and, particularly through an emphasis on cultural events, further its aim of changing negative social attitudes toward LGBT people in Romania.
The GayFest 2004 was, at that time, the first LGBT festival ever organised in Romania, and took place between 3 and 9 May. It was initially titled "The Diversity Festival", and had the theme of "You have the right to be diverse". The festival was mainly centred on public debates concerning attitudes towards LGBT people in Romania, as well as cultural events. Several publications on LGBT issues, such as George Bălan's Homofobia, were officially launched, and Romania's first LGBT film festival was organised, with nine films from nine different countries, including a documentary about the 2001 gay pride parade in Belgrade, Serbia, which degenerated into violence. As part of the GayFest, the Goethe Institute in Bucharest hosted a photographic exhibition by Polish artist Karolina Bregula, titled Să ne vadă ("Let them see us") which explored the visibility of gays and lesbians in Poland.
The idea behind the festival was to offer some transparency for the gay community in Romania. This will be a week in which we will celebrate the right to be different from the majority while at the same time having solidarity with the rest of society. Romania must show that it lives in the Europe of 2004.
The festival was publicly supported by a number of high-profile figures, such as parliamentarian Mădălin Voicu, who stated in the press that, "...we [Romanians] should adapt and realise that no more barriers exist in this domain except those imposed by decency...Homosexuals exist in all layers of society, starting from poor people to politicians, VIPs, etc."
The 2004 Diversity Festival was initially planned to be organised with the support of the National Council for Combating Discrimination and Bucharest's Sector 3 Council, both of which later pulled out citing financial reasons, and resulting in the event being organised by ACCEPT with the support of several sponsors, including the Romanian Government, the British Council, the Goethe Institute, and the Embassy of Sweden in Bucharest.
A gay pride parade through central Bucharest was also initially projected, but was later abandoned, with various newspapers stating that Romanian society was not ready for such an event. Ştefan Iancu, the organiser of the 2004 Diversity Festival, stated to Ziarul, on 3 May, 2004, that, "We wanted to do this [a pride parade], but we don't know if we would succeed in convincing gay people to come out into the streets. Evidently, they are too afraid of the repercussions (jobs lost, shocked parents, etc.)" Nonetheless, the next year a gay pride parade was organised as part of GayFest 2005.
The 2005 GayFest took place between 23 and 30 May, under the slogan of "You have the right to love". It sparked a significant amount of controversy in Romania, as it included the first gay pride parade in the country. Initially, the application for this parade, which took place on May 29, was rejected by the Bucharest City Hall, on the grounds that the city could not adequately provide security for the participants. Various right-wing groups, such as the neo-fascist Noua Dreaptă, as well as the Romanian Orthodox Church, also actively opposed the march and called for its ban.
The parade received authorisation, however, after intense lobbying from international gay rights campaigners and the National Council for Combating Discrimination, as well as public support from President Traian Băsescu and Justice Minister Monica Macovei. It proceeded successfully, with about 300 people taking part, though some sources claim that as many as 850 participants were present. A counter-demonstration, which had not received approval from the City Hall, was organised by Noua Dreaptă, the participants of which displayed anti-gay banners and violently aimed to break up the pride parade. Several members of Noua Dreaptă were arrested, and the group was subsequently fined 3,000 lei (approximately US$1,000). At the conclusion of the parade, the executive director of ACCEPT, Florin Buhuceanu, stated that:
The simple fact that the first gay festival [pride parade] took place meant a lot for us. Next time it will be more spectacular, with music and shows. People must have the courage to accept those who are different than them.
Aside from the pride parade, an LGBT film festival was organised during the GayFest week, with 13 films being shown at three different venues: the Goethe Institute, La Motoare, and the Elvira Popescu Cinema. Two public debates and seminars were organised at La Scena, on the topics of homosexuality and religion, the mass media, and anti-discrimination laws.
The 2006 GayFest took place between 30 May and 4 June, and was organised under the title of "Same rights, same responsibilities". The central theme was that of "Same-sex marriage and civil unions in Romania"; neither is currently recognised in the country. During the GayFest week, ACCEPT called on the state to legalise same-sex marriage, or at least civil unions, creating unprecedented media coverage and debate about this issue.
The GayFest Parade, which received authorisation from the City Hall on May 30, took place on June 3, starting at 18:00 and attracting approximately 800 participants, including LGBT rights activists from Sweden, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. The parade included extravagant costumes, music and balloons, as well as the traditional 200-metre (626-foot) long rainbow flag that is featured at every GayFest parade. The participants also held up signs reading, "We love you!" and "Homophobia, the worst disease", while calling on the parliament to legalise same-sex marriage.
Alongside members of the LGBT community, the march was also attended by several supporters of civil rights and human rights, many of them heterosexual. One woman who participated in the parade stated to BBC News that:
I am here with my husband, and in case we have a child who is gay, we want him to have rights and to be happy, to have the chance to be happy in this country. I support marriage between people of the same sex. Actually, it is for that reason that we are here. I want my child to have rights in the case that he is born homosexual. And this is not a tragedy, in any case.
Like last year's event, however, the 2006 parade was not without opposition. On May 30, twenty-two conservative NGOs, including the far right-wing Noua Dreaptă, called on the Romanian Orthodox Church to oppose the pride parade. On June 2, the Orthodox Church denounced the City Hall for permitting the march to take place, stating that it is "an affront to the morality of public institutions, and a danger ... for the formation of young people". Additionally, Noua Dreaptă filed a legal complaint in a Bucharest court to get the march banned, arguing that it was "obscene and anti-social". The complaint was not, however, successful, with the court declaring that the GayFest Parade should take place.
At 11:00 on June 3, a few hours before the GayFest Parade, Noua Dreaptă conducted a counter-demonstration, attended by approximately 150 people, for "family values" and "moral traditions", parading with Christian crosses and Orthodox icons, as well as Romanian flags and posters denouning homosexuality. Unlike in 2005, however, this march was not scheduled at the same time as the GayFest parade, and hence there were no violent clashes. Despite this, tens of protesters tried to break up the actual gay parade, clashing with the very strong police presence that shielded the LGBT activists. The protesters also held up signs reading "Romania does not need you" and threw eggs at the parade participants as well as the police. 51 anti-gay protesters were arrested and fined by police for provoking violence.
Following the parade, the organisers, ACCEPT, stated that despite the attempts by anti-gay protesters to break up the parade, they were pleased that the authorities had the situation under control, and that the number of participants in the parade was greater than expected. The two parties of the governing Justice and Truth Alliance — the Liberals and the Democrats — issued a statement after the parade condemning the violent anti-gay protests and calling for tolerance. They did not, however, comment on the issue of same-sex unions. The opposition Social Democratic Party also condemned the anti-gay violence.
A few days after the pride parade, the Cotidianul newspaper interviewed Romania's main political parties about their stance on same-sex marriage in Romania, which was the theme of the 2006 GayFest. The two governing parties of the Justice and Truth Alliance affirmed their support for gay rights, but were elusive on the issue of same-sex marriage, while the Social Democrats stated that they would not initiate or support a legislative proposal on same-sex marriage, but that a broader public debate on this issue is necessary, "in order to see in what way the standards regarding fundamental liberties can be improved with regard to people with another sexual orientation". The right-wing Conservatives and Greater Romania Party were opposed to same-sex marriage.
The 2007 GayFest included the Inklusiv Film Festival, which showcased nine feature-length international films and documentaries about LGBT issues:
The festival also included seven short films, screened one after another, on the theme of "Men in privacy".
On Tuesday, June 5, the second day of the film festival, a gay couple were physically-assaulted by a group of around eight people, as they were exiting the cinema where the films are shown. The police intervened rapidly and arrested the aggressors. According to a statement by the police, one of the aggressors has been charged for assault. The spokesperson of the Bucharest Police, Christian Ciocan, stated that, "The person under question was taken to the police station, where he was charged for assault and other violences, risking a prison sentence of one to three months, or a penal fine." The status of the other attackers is unknown.
The Cărtureşti Bookstore also hosted a photo exhibition titled "Ce fac gayi şi lesbienele in pat?" (What do gays and lesbians do in bed?), which highlighted 16 photos from the Polish artists Rapari Team that presented the day-to-day activities of same-sex couples. The goal of the exhibition was to show that "the life of a gay individual or couple is not different from the life of a heterosexual individual or couple, and that the needs of people, indifferent of sexual orientation, are the same."
Despite the unprecedented security, more than a hundred anti-gay protesters tried to break up the pride parade. The protesters failed to penetrate through the police cordon and, after throwing stones and firecrackers at police, they were dispersed with teargas and around 100 of them were arrested. According to Christian Ciocan, the police spokesperson, none of the participants in the pride parade was injured.
Florin Buhuceanu, the vicepresident of ACCEPT, declared after the march:
We regret that our opponents use violence ... Police only did their job to protect an authorised march. It is our right to express our beliefs and we will not renounce in the face of violence.
Maxim Anmeghicean, the representative from ILGA-Europe, stated that, "Even since I have participated at this march I have never seen such a strong persence by the forces of law and order". He remarked that the gendarmes had acted very professionally.
A few hours before the GayFest pride parade, at 10:00 in the morning, the far-right organisation Noua Dreaptă organised a counter-demonstration against the GayFest, titled the "March for Normality". The event was attended by around 100 participants, bearing posters against same-sex marriage, Christian crosses, and fascist symbols. The Noua Dreaptă marchers were met by a group of around 20 antifascist ("antifa") protesters who shouted slogans such as "All different, all equal" and "Noua Dreaptă: Illegal", and declared that they are "protesting against the Nazist extremism which goes unpunished in Romanian society". The antifascist protesters were not affiliated to the organisers of the GayFest pride parade.
GayFest was also covered in the HotOrNot section or the Cotidianul Weekend newspaper. The article, titled "If you're hetero[sexual], go to the gay parade", stated that, ""Participating in GayFest is hot because, aside from the fight against discrimination, it is a parade that is jolly, coloured and can be fun". At 12:00 on June 9, ProTV, the largest private TV network in Romania, screened a short documentary titled "Gays which made history". In celebration of GayFest 2007, the show sought to inform people more about international LGBT history and issues of diversity.
Following the pride parade, Libertatea sought to investigate the opinion of the public with regard to the event. According to its findings, the majority of those interviewed saw the parade as something "perfectly normal in a democratic country". One passer-by stated, "It's good that they're expressing their views. It's their business what sexual inclinations they have. As long as they don't affect me with anything, they can do what they want. If the City Hall gave them permission to organise a meeting, why wouldn't they do it? Today, people hold meetings for everything." Another interviewee remarked, "Their manifestation doesn't affect me in any way. They can do what they want if the City Hall gave them the right. They can affirm their opinions, they can ask for their rights, since we live in a free country.
The GayFest 2007 received an official letter of support and solidarity from the organisers of Zagreb Pride, as well as from Herta Däubler-Gmelin, a member of the German Bundestag and former Justice Minister of Germany.
The parade was, however, supported by the Metropolitan Community Church in Bucharest, with the church's pastor, Diane Fisher, making a keynote address.
Radu Ţîrle, a Romanian MEP representing the Democratic Party, expressed his opposition to the gay pride parade, stating "The homosexual parade in Bucharest is a shame for Romania. It is regrettable that behind the so-called freedom of sexual orientation and freedom of opinion, the proselytism of this deviant and immoral behaviour is allowed to proliferate. The sexual orientation of anyone is a purely personal matter and its freedom is guaranteed by law, but it should not degenerate into manifestations which tend towards proselytism." Ţîrle also criticised the Bucharest City Hall for authorising the march. Ţîrle has in the past made derogatory comments about other minorities, such as the Roma, Hungarians, and religious minorities, and in December 2006 the Democratic Party voted to no longer endorse him as a candidate for the next European Parliament elections. It is important to note that the Mayor of Bucharest, Adriean Videanu, who authorised the pride parade, is also a member of the Democratic Party.
Gigi Becali, known for his repeated homophobic comments at previous LGBT events, stated, "I have nothing against them, but why they make a parade, I don’t understand. Let them meet in the park, 300, 500 of them, to make a show. I would have nothing against it, but a parade, propaganda? It is abnormal." Becali, who is also the president of the Steaua football club, stated that he doesn't want any more homosexuals coming to Ghencea Stadium, but later appeared to contradict himself by saying "Discrimination? It's discrimination if I don't let them come. Where's the discrimination? The National Council for Combating Discrimination announced that it will be investigating if Becali's comments breach Romania's anti-discrimination laws, which also cover speech. In a later interview, however, Becali declared, "I love them [homosexuals] in the same way that I love all other people. They can marry at the City Hall, every day, 10 of them if they want to. But in church, they don't have a place.
Corneliu Vadim Tudor, the president of the far-right Greater Romania Party, stated that public manifestations of homosexuality should be banned, because they "violate the sight, hearing and education of children" and "provoke the Church". However, he added that violence against LGBT people is a "form of barbarism", and should not be accepted under any circumstances.
Fiesta organizada por integrantes y ex-integrantes del grupo de desarrollo VMQ