Invisible Protest for May 17, 2014, Tbilisi, Georgia (DFWatch)

Invisible Protest for May 17, 2014, Tbilisi, Georgia (DFWatch)

TBILISI, DFWatch–Same sex marriage legislation in the U.S. is a landmark decision, but LGBT* people in Georgia have bigger problems than not being allowed to get married.

On June 26, the U.S. Supreme Court legalised same-sex marriages country wide. It was a landmark decision, which had a strong effect on human rights movements across the globe.

DFWatch met with Irakli Vacharadze, the head of human rights NGO Identoba, and Sophia Asatiani, human rights lawyer, to discuss the implications of this decision in Georgia.

“This is a landmark case for the gay rights movement throughout the world, not only in the United States, because something that the Supreme Court of the United States established, is later interpreted and spread throughout the world,” said Asatiani, and called it a positive step, despite some existing flaws in its reasoning.

“In the long run, the U.S. will be more determined in making sure that basic human rights are well respected, which is not the case right now,” added Irakli Vacharadze, “the US will be more confident in saying to the Georgian government at least in the diplomatic communication that they can no longer maintain and entertain ideas which institutionalize unequal treatment.”

But at the same time, he said, this ruling has negative consequences as well, because it takes away public attention from the bigger and more important problems that the LGBT* community faces in Georgia.

“We’ve seen an attempt from Georgian politicians in some shady media sources to portray this as an imminent danger to the very survival of Georgian nation.<…>Our basic principal is that gay marriage belongs to where it was adopted. Right now in Georgia there is poverty, there is survival at stake and for the LGBT* individuals is the physical safety. That’s what matters for us. What we saw, was this farce, when you are treated like a dog, and at the same time people are protesting some highly elevated quasi-arrangement for some groups. I don’t care for marriage right now. It is not even on the table.”

On June 29, a conservative newspaper ‘Asaval-Dasavali’ published an interview with Irakli Garibashvili, in which he claimed to do everything in his power to ban same sex marriages in the constitution of Georgia.

“According to GYLA’s legal expertise, Georgia’s constitution is based on the principal of equality. No government of the world will be able to abolish this principal and still call itself a democracy,” says Vacharadze.

He is sure that Garibashvili will not be able to fulfill his promises. He added that the ruling Georgian Dream currently does not have the required majority to initiate constitutional changes anyway.

“Garibashvili was simply being populist and gaining popular votes and hate votes. ‘Asaval-Dasavali’ attracts only hate readers it does not attract anyone who is remotely educated. You can not find any intellectual in Georgia, who would say they read ‘Asaval-Dasavali’,” thinks the leader of Identoba.

Asatiani agreed that currently such changes are not likely to happen, but added that in an unlikely case, there is no legal mechanism which would allow to challenge it in front of the Constitutional Court: “The Constitutional Court can not discuss and evaluate legality of the constitutional amendments themselves, they only evaluate what already is in the Constitution.”

Both interviewees agreed, that there are a lot of things to be done in Georgia to ensure non-discrimination of LGBT* people. According to Asatiani, the Public Defender’s Office (PDO) should be given more powers, as now it has just a monitoring mandate and its recommendations are not legally binding. Moreover, the PDO can interfere with potential discrimination cases originating just in the state institutions, and not in the private sphere.

Vacharadze added, that other legal documents are not functioning in practice as well, such as 33.3 article of the Criminal Code regarding hate crime. Also, transgender people are not allowed to change gender in their IDs without getting forced sterilized.

Listen to the discussion here: