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March 11, 2011

Two Influential Americans Make Separate Visits to Europe’s Poorest Nation

This past week, the former Soviet republic of Moldova received visits from two high-profile Americans. One of the visitors was Joe Biden, the Vice President of the United States. He engaged Moldova’s leaders on future cooperation and the development of democratic institutions, and discussed the role of anti-Jewish pogroms and the Holocaust in the history of Moldova.

The other visitor came with a very different kind of appeal for greater U.S.-Moldovan cooperation. His name is Scott Lively, and the kind of “antigay rights” cooperation he envisions is antithetical to the public message of the U.S. government (albeit not voiced publicly during the Vice President’s trip to Moldova), which for the past two years has been telling the world that gay rights are human rights.

Scott Lively is known in the United States for being outspoken against homosexuality and “the LGBT lobby,” as well as occasional Holocaust revisionism. While his message has had increasingly less traction at home in the United States, Lively has emerged as a tireless international campaigner against the “threat” of homosexuality faced by other nations, from Russia to Uganda—and now to Moldova. 

You can see firsthand the sort of rhetoric Mr. Lively employs (and the kind of reception he receives) at his sermons abroad in this YouTube clip from Novosibirsk, Russia. Such messages have been particularly welcome by certain religious and other leaders in Uganda, where the Anti-Homosexuality Bill was introduced in 2009 after a similar visit by Lively. Following an international outcry, the Bill’s principle sponsor, MP David Bahati, temporarily tabled the bill—which proposes life imprisonment for the offense of “homosexuality”—although has said that he plans to reintroduce it. President Museveni promised to veto this legislation should it make it through the Uganda’s Parliament, although the very discussion of the bill and its contents has contributed to a hateful climate for Uganda’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) individuals.

“Homosexuality” is precisely what Scott Lively went to combat in Moldova. As reported by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Lively reacted to the new antidiscrimination bill that contained a sexual orientation clause by arguing that “ending discrimination against gays would be the first step towards the ‘homosexualization’ of society and would be followed by granting gay people the right to marry and adopt children.” The proposed bill, which would bring Moldova a step closer to improved relations with the European Union, was also condemned by the Moldovan Orthodox Church and is vehemently opposed by Lively’s main allies in the country— Pro Familia and Moldova Crestina.

Even without Lively’s antigay advocacy, Moldova’s LGBTI people have a long way to go to ensure equal rights. Just take the illustrative example of recent gay pride events. In 2009, Human Rights First included this case study from Moldova in our intervention during the Freedom of Assembly Session at the annual human rights gathering of OSCE participating States:

In Moldova, the Chisinau city hall banned gay pride demonstrations in 2005, 2006, and 2007. On May 11, 2008, GenderDoc-M attempted to organize a gay pride parade in the capital once again. However, the bus which carried approximately 60 pride participants was met with opposition from extremist neo-fascist and other groups. The overwhelmed and outnumbered LGBT advocates called off the march. Moldovan police was reportedly present at the event; however they stood passively about one hundred meters away and made no attempt to help the trapped participants.

One can only hope that Joe Biden's messages got more attention and approval from Moldovans.