On May 2, 2014, the Republic of Georgia buckled to EU pressure and passed an unpopular anti-discrimination law which provides some limited protections for Gay rights in the face of passionate opposition from the Orthodox Church. In exchange for passing this unpopular law the Republic of Georgia was promised a more open visa regime with EU nations.
However, it is interesting to note the actual results in regards to attitudes. Gay Rights were never very popular in the Republic of Georgia, and seem to be no more popular now. Most Georgians seem to resent European “depravity” being foisted upon them.
A year ago, on the international day against homophobia (IDAHO), a massive, church-led counter-demonstration in Tbilisi broke up a small gay rights demonstration and left demonstrators in fear for their lives. This year, Georgia’s beleaguered gay rights activists declined to rally on that day. Instead, they registered their invisibility with an imaginative art installation of 100 empty pairs of shoes left on Tbilisi’s Pushkin square.
The church, meanwhile, moved to re-claim IDAHO as a national family day. A few hundred churchmen and supporters marched through Tbilisi’s streets and protested against the anti-discrimination law outside of the former parliament building. This suggests that homophobia has triumphed in Georgia but polls taken just before the eruption of the controversy over the anti-discrimination law show that 24% of Georgians surveyed said that gay rights were important; in June 2013, only 16% did.
It should be interesting to see what happens. Forcing Gay Rights upon the Republic of Georgia was unpopular. However, Georgians seem to justify these unpalatable measures by focusing on the benefits of inclusion in Europe and NATO. If Europe and NATO don’t follow through with their promises, there is a real risk that Georgians will look to Russia, its traditional trading partner. Much of the economic slow down in the Republic of Georgia is caused by a combination of the embargo placed on Georgian goods by Russia, and the failure of Europe to open its markets. If Europe fails to follow through on its promises, the Georgians may be forced to further swallow their pride and turn to Russia in order to lift the economic embargo as well as get help in regards to various internal problems (admittedly mostly caused by Russian interference and meddling).