Is legalizing same-sex marriages the next step after antidiscrimination law?
12 June, 2014
Is legalizing same-sex marriages the next step after antidiscrimination law?
Exclusive interview with Thomas Hammarberg

Thomas Hammarberg, the EU’s Special Adviser for Legal and Constitutional Reform and Human Rights, held his last press conference on 7 June at the Courtyard Marriott hotel. The Georgian Journal was privileged to record an exclusive, farewell interview with Mr. Hammarberg. We mostly talked the anti-discrimination law which was almost unanimously adopted by the Georgian parliament in spite of a harsh opposition from the Georgian Orthodox Church and religiously minded population.

G.J: Opposed to the
adoption of this law, prominent Georgian businessman Levan Vasadze stated that 90% of the population who are churchgoers oppose this law. He claims the law is a form of occultism since ‘in our country the rights of lesbians and gays have never been violated’, but that they still demand to be protected. Frankly speaking, was there such a great need to adopt this law, because there are quite a lot of countries without this law in the EU?

T.H: The trend is that when a country adopts an anti-discrimination law, it implicitly states that discrimination on the grounds of nationality, race, women, children will not be accepted. These lists include sexual orientation and gender identity. Why do they do that? Because homosexual people and those with transgender identities are subjected to discrimination when it comes to jobs. In some cases, they are bullied in schools. It has turned out to be a real problem. Many who are not of the traditional sexual orientation are afraid to say that, because they think they will be discriminated. But if some people believe that there is no problem, it does not mean it is really so.
Some years ago, I was thinking in the same way but then I met a lot of people who were humiliated because of their non-traditional sexual orientation. I have seen cases where people were beaten to death because of their orientation. I have talked with lesbians and gays here in Georgia. Fortunately, there have not been any cases of death, but they say that they are daily discriminated and that they are afraid.

G.J: Still, everybody is entitled to their opinion. There are lots of people who think that this will affect the future of their children.

T.H: People fear that LGBT people will teach them how to be homosexual, but that is not true. This is something in their blood – they are born this way. I think this is a problem of understanding and education. For instance, if somebody is black and discriminated, he will speak out, but what about a lesbian or a gay doing the same? I think after some years the people will realize that it was not a disaster to adopt this law, on the contrary.

G.J: There is a fear too that after adopting this law, same-sex marriages would be legalized too. And I assure you, that absolute majority of our population would not welcome it and consider it as imposed.

T.H: It is not an obvious conclusion. It is not the obvious next step. The third part of this adoption consists of children’s rights. Is it good for them? In my opinion, the major concern is about what is good for the child. It might be problematic to bring up a child with parents of the same sex in a society where they do not respect homosexual couples. A child’s human rights are paramount. In school, for instance, when somebody will ask: who is your mother? The answer will be: I have no mother, I only have two fathers. This will cause strain on the child. So, I do not think that the next steps are obvious.

G.J: What would you say to the representatives of Georgian Orthodox Church and churchgoers who believe this law was imposed by European society?

T.H: I met the Patriarch after 17 May last year (on this day LGBT activists were subjected to physical aggression). The Patriarch agreed that there was an aggressive atmosphere, violence, etc. After all, the values of the EU do not oppose the values of the church. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights which was adopted in 1948 is very much inspired by religious groups. These are the right to life, respect for others, etc. These are the key points of every religion. There should be an ongoing dialogue in the nation about these matters.

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