Bulgaria: Rain does not deter many thousands turning out for 2023 Sofia Pride

Constant rain drenching Bulgaria’s capital city on June 17 did not deter many thousands turning out for the 2023 Sofia Pride, the 16th time the event has been held in the city.

In an intermission in the concert, there were calls for Bulgarian legislation to be amended to recognise hate crimes against LGBTQI+ as an aggravating factor, for trans and intersex people to be entitled to personal documents matching their identities and to support an Allout petition for Baby Sarah – the child of two women married to each other – to be issued with Bulgarian identity documents, after municipal authorities long have refused to do so.

Participating on stage were members of the Diplomats for Equality group, including representatives from Albania, Armenia, Belgium, Germany, Denmark, France, the French Institute, Finland, Czechia, Ireland, the Netherlands, North Macedonia, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, Unicef, the United Kingdom, the United States and Ukraine.

The ambassador of Sweden, Katarina Rangnitt, told the crowd: “The rain will not stop us from marching for European values and equality, from being who we are, for equality”.

There were also messages of support from German ambassador Irene Plank and from US embassy deputy head of mission Andrea Brouillette-Rodriguez, who said: “The US is thrilled to be here today to support the Pride 2023 Parade.

“LGBTQI+ rights are human rights,” Brouillette-Rodriguez said. “No one ever should be treated differently because of who they love.”

Simeon Vassilev of the GLAS Foundation thanked the Organization of the Jews in Bulgaria Shalom for providing a venue for 10 years to stand in for the LGBTQI+ Rainbow Hub, which was vandalised in 2021 by a group led by a minor far-right extra-parliamentary politician.

The concert was to be followed by the traditional procession through the streets of Sofia, as part of what Sofia Pride organisers describe as the biggest annual event for human rights in Bulgaria.

The event was held with strict security measures, with a group of ultra-right extremists outside the venue, protesting against it.

The day also saw another procession in Sofia, billed as being in support of “Christian family values”.

Sofia Pride 2023 was preceded by homophobic incidents, including billboards and posters advertising it being vandalised, and far-right extremists disrupting the Sofia Pride Film Festival. On the eve of Sofia Pride, hand-lettered banners were put up in places in Sofia, with calls for violence, falsely purporting to be from the organisers of Sofia Pride.

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