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Anti-Gay Extremists Absent from Montenegro's Third LGBT Pride Parade: VIDEO

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More than 100 activists and allies in the conservative capital of Podgorica, Montenegro held the nation's third LGBT pride march on Sunday, which was the first to take place peacefully. The country's first two marches, held in Podgorica and the coastal town of Budva last year, were both marred by violence from anti-gay and religious extremists.

PoliceThe procession took place adjacent to the government's main buildings.

AFP reports:

Human Rights Minister Suad Numanovic and Podgorica Mayor Slavoljub Stijepanovic joined the parade along with ambassadors of several member states of the European Union, which Montenegro is in talks to join.

Mitja Drobnic, the head of the EU delegation in Montenegro, also took part, telling reporters: "Human rights make part of the rule of law. Without results achieved in the area of the rule of law there is no progress towards EU membership."

He urged Montenegro to "prove through this part of the fight (for human rights) that it meets criteria for membership" in the 28-nation bloc.

Watch footage of the march, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Montenegro's First Out Gay Man Endures Persecution, Skypes Capital's First Pride March

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Zdravko Cimbaljevic came out in 2010 and earned the distinction of being Montenegro's first out gay man. From that moment on, his life got much more difficult. The death threats and assaults began almost immediately, Buzzfeed reports, with his father disowning him, his extended family cutting him off, his neighbor attacking him in the street, and receiving death threats like one posted in public that read:

With his blown-out ass, we announce that on the day of July 24 2013 in 12 a.m., in front of the Walls of The Old Town Budva, his soul will depart in death, our afflicted and never overf--ked brother … ZDRAVKO CIMBALJEVIC. Commemoration of the dearly screwed deceased will be held in former Government building.

Despite Cimbaljevic reporting all incidents to the authorities, and despite Montenegro having LGBT protections written into law to meet the requirements for admission into the European Union, no prosecutions have been taken. Fearing for his safety and believing that the authorities had no desire to halt his persecution, Cimbaljevic sought asylum in Canada this summer after the Pride march in Budva, an action he says he wouldn't have taken if just one person had been convicted.

This past Sunday the country's capital of Podgorica held its first-ever Pride march, which Cimbaljevic attended via Skype. Violence did erupt, but unlike the march in Budva, police in Podgorica locked down the parade route and protected the marchers from harm. The event was attended to and supported by government officials. 

Cimbaljevic's activism and coming out has helped to dramatically shift the climate towards homosexuals in the country in a relatively short amount of time.

“I was frightened in the beginning, but it really was easier for me than it was for Zdravko,” [Stevan] Milivojevic said. Gay and lesbian issues have been part of the national discussion since Cimbaljevic came out — people are at least aware that LGBTs exist within Montenegro now. “My parents and friends and all my surrounding people supported me,” he said.


Police Clash With Extremists As Montenegro's Capital Holds First Gay Pride March: VIDEO

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As planned, Montenegro's capital of Podgorica held its first gay pride march today. While only an estimated 150 people marched, the event drew approximately 1,500 extremists who sought to disrupt the event, ultimately forcing police intervention, The Guardian reports.

Montenegran President Filip Vujanović had previously promised the group Queer Montenegro, who organized the march, that the government would do everything within its power to guarantee the safety of those involved. By all accounts, the government seems to have made good on that promise. Despite an explosion at the perimeter of the march, a barrage of rocks being hurled at marchers, and twelve protesters who came armed with molotov cocktails (all of whom were arrested by police), there are no reports that anyone who took part in the march was injured, according to BuzzFeed. Two thousand police officers, approximately fifty-percent of Montenegro's entire police force, were on hand for the event, Historia IME reports. Twenty police officers were injured and fourty extremist "hooligans" were also hurt as Police and anti-gay protesters butted heads throughout the day.

RainThe march in Podgorica comes as just the second Pride event in the country's history. As previously reported, the small town of Budva held its first Pride in July of this year. That event was also marred by the presence of anti-gay protesters. However, an important distinction between the march in Budva and the one in Podgorica was the presence and involvement of the government. BuzzFeed reports:

Activists were heartened by the presence of Montenegro’s minister of human and minority rights, Suad Numanović, which they took as a gesture of the government’s commitment to protecting LGBT rights. No government officials took part in the Budva march.

“In Budva, the message was … this is the Montenegro which does not support LGBT people,” said Ljiljiana Reicević, a march participant who also attended the Budva pride march. “But Podgorica is totally different. It proves that the government is stating, ‘No, We will not allow this [violence], we will stop this, and we will protect you.’”

Many have speculated that Montenegro's desire to join the European Union is a key factor behind the government's staunch support for the march in Podgorica, especially considering that dignitaries such as Mitja Drobnič, head of the European Union’s mission to Montenegro, and Laurent L. Stokvis, the Dutch ambassador to Serbia, were on hand for the event. Moreover, as BuzzFeed notes, Minister Numanović seems to believe that "Demonstrating progress towards securing LGBT rights is crucial to Montenegro’s aspirations to one day be part of the European Union":

“On the road to European integration, the government of Montenegro has shown its democratic capacity [and the pride march] shows that Montenegrin society is maturing in the protection of all minorities, including members of the LGBT community,” he said.

That was the message received by Ambassador Stokvis. “I think it is of great significance that the LGBT community here is holding this pride [and] that it is being supported and it is being safeguarded by the Montenegran government,” he said. “This of course a sign of democracy, about the right to assemble, the right to demonstrate, and the right to free speech … important values for all of us, for the European Union and for the Netherlands in particular.”

Check out some incredible photos via Joe.My.God and a video of the march AFTER THE JUMP...

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Towleroad Interview: Zdravko Cimbaljevic, Organizer Of The Very First Pride Parade In Montenegro

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Earlier this week we reported on the very first Pride parade to take place in the small Balkans country of Montenegro. Unfortunately, the event was marred by 200 anti-gay protesters who shouted "kill the gays" and threw stones and other objects at the 40 Pride participants. The marchers shouted their own response to the protesters: "Kiss The Gays."

Zdravko Cimbaljević, the executive director of LGBT Forum Progress, was one of the organizers of Wednesday's parade. He is also the very first openly gay person in the history of Montenegro, having come out publicly in 2010. In an attempt to target and scare organizers of the parade, several of the country's newspapers published fake obituaries of Cimbaljević in the days leading up to the event which took place in the coastal town of Budva. Those phony notices were then seen posted all over Budva.

I spoke to Cimbaljević about the events surrounding this week's Pride parade, death threats and the overall progress of the LGBT community in Montenegro over the last few years. Read our interview with him, AFTER THE JUMP.

Continue reading "Towleroad Interview: Zdravko Cimbaljevic, Organizer Of The Very First Pride Parade In Montenegro" »


Violence Disrupts Montenegro's First Pride Celebration: VIDEO

Montenegro PrideThe small Balkans nation of Montenegro held its first ever Pride parade in the coastal town of Budva. While the small 40-person parade did anticipate some resistance, organizers were shocked when more that 200 anti-gay protesters showed up, and chanted slogans like "kill the gays" while assaulting both participants and police. At least ten of the protesters were arrested, while several members of the parade walked away with minor injuries. 

The violence comes one day after anti-gay demonstrators hung fake death notices depicting on of the parade's organizers, Zdravko Cimbaljevic, who is also credited as being the "first person to have come out as gay in Montenegro". He told Reuters that these violent and homophobic demonstrations showcase "the true face of Montenegro". The country has recently sought multiple measures to improve its human rights record in order to join the European Union, despite having a rather conservative population. One native Montenegrin told a reporter from AP that, "I don't approve of violence, but I didn't know how to explain this gathering to my son." According to AP, the Montenegrin government praised both the parade participants and the police who clashed with protesters. "Interior Minister Rasko Konjevic praised the police, saying they prevented more serious clashes."

Montenegro Pride ProtesterThis is, unfortunately, not the first instance of violence toward gay people taking place in Montenegro. AP reports that:

"Previous attempts to organize pride events in the country failed over threats of violence. In 2012, actors who posed as a gay couple in a video promoting tolerance were badly beaten in the capital, Podgorica. But Montenegro's pro-EU government has expressed support for the pride event and urged tolerance." 

Pride celebration now routinely take place in neighboring Croatia without such incidents. However, it is worth noting that another neighboring nation, Serbia, banned a Pride march last October after similar violence erupted at another parade in 2011. The Serbian government claimed that they banned last year's march for fear of even more violence. 

In an effort to improve its standing on human rights, Montenegro has already "passed a bill against all kinds of sexual discrimination." Unfortunately, the tide of public opinion has yet to shift. According to NBC World News, "two-thirds of Montenegrins canvassed in a recent survey by the Ipsos research think-tank said they thought homosexuality was an illness and 80 percent said it should be kept private."

Montenegro Pride ViolenceNo word has yet been released as to whether LGBT activists plan on attempting similar celebrations or demonstrations in the future. LGBT rights groups in Serbia have already hailed the parade in Montenegro as "strategically important". Other LGBT groups across Europe are also expressing support. Evelyne Paradis, executive director of ILGA-Europe, stated in a press release:

"Today is an unfortunate day for Montenegro. A group of LGBTI citizens exercised their fundamental right to assembly and publicly express themselves peacefully. Unfortunately other citizens employed violent methods to deprive their compatriots of this basic right...The Montenegrin authorities fulfilled their duty to guarantee the right of assembly to LGBTI activists and their supporters...there is a huge need for education and awareness raising to be done by the Montenegrin authorities in order to cultivate and promote the basic principles and values of the European Union among its citizens, the principles of diversity and respect for human rights."

Fortunately, Prime Minister of Montenegro Milo Djukanovic has already stated publicly that his country "supports protection of human rights for all people without difference."

Watch videos of the protests and violence AFTER THE JUMP...

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NEWS: School's Out, Gay's In, A Boy Genius, A Boy Wizard, And Ghostboats

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Towleroad-roadicon "The triumphant gay revolution."

Towleroad-roadicon At America's military academies, the first DADT-less year draws to a close:

For the first time, gay students at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis were able to take a same-sex date to the academy's Ring Dance for third-year midshipmen. The U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo., officially recognized a club for gay students this month. And gay cadets at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., are relieved they no longer have to worry about revealing their sexuality.

Several gay students from the nation's major military academies said the September repeal of "don't ask, don't tell," an 18-year-old legal provision under which gays could serve as long as they didn't openly acknowledge their sexual orientation, meant significant change.

"For the most part, it allows us to be a complete person, as opposed to compartmentalizing our lives into different types of boxes," said newly commissioned Air Force 2nd Lt. Dan Dwyer, who graduated from the Air Force Academy on Wednesday. West Point held its graduation Saturday, and the Naval Academy's was set for Tuesday.

Towleroad-roadicon Nick Clegg says there should be no conscience vote on marriage equality:

The Deputy Prime Minister said Liberal Democrat MPs will be forced to vote in favour of allowing gay marriage when the legislation is considered by Parliament.

Some Tory MPs are strongly opposed to allowing gay marriage. Last week Sir George Young, the Conservative leader of the Commons, announced that there would be a free vote on the subject because it was a matter of conscience.

But Mr Clegg disagreed, pointing to the fact that the original law bringing in civil partnerships was also not passed on a free vote in the House of Commons.

He the BBC’s Andrew Marr porgramme: “My view is that in the same way that the civil partnerships legislation that was introduced under Labour was a whipped vote, I personally don’t think this is something that should be subject to a great free-for-all because we’re not asking people to make a decision of conscience about religion.”

Towleroad-roadicon What kinds of letters did Judge Bermann receive before deciding Dharun Ravi's sentence?

most of the letters came from people who thought Ravi had made a terrible mistake — but did not deserve prison.

Some thought the media and public opinion had punished him already. Some said prosecutors were overzealous and others said Ravi, because he is Indian, was the victim of discrimination.

Some, like Amitabha, of Succasunna, N.J., said that prison was just too much. She wrote: "We have already lost a talented young man, Tyler Clementi, and it will be a double tragedy if Ravi's life is also ruined by a stiff sentence and is forced to leave the country he lived practically all his life."

Jackson, a former Rutgers sociology professor whose daughter committed suicide, wrote that Ravi is already paying for any role he had in Clementi's death: "I am convinced that he had no idea that his immature prank would contribute to his roommate's suicide and that he, like me, will punish himself with guilt for the rest of his life."

Towleroad-roadicon German schoolboy solves centuries-old mathematical riddle.

Towleroad-roadicon On the crackup of the Met's Peter Gelb:

From the start, his greatest strength has been his gift for marketing and publicity. Yet he suddenly seems unable to stop himself from engaging in behavior that generates negative stories about the Met and damages its image. His sensitivity to criticism appears to be extreme, his way of responding at once brutal and maladroit. Some might say that there is no such thing as bad publicity, but investigative stories on page one of the Times are in another category. Members of the Met board, who so far seem to have given Gelb free rein, may no longer be able to look away.

EuroNeuro Towleroad-roadicon Mitt Romney will not win his home state in November. So what?

Towleroad-roadicon See the ship graveyard left when the Aral Sea receded.

Towleroad-roadicon Is the Harry Potter series fit for academic exegesis?

Towleroad-roadicon There are only two or three gays in Azerbaijan.

Towleroad-roadicon Really, Montenegro's "Euro Neuro" should have won at Eurovision. It was topical, rueful, and awful -- just right for 2012. Watch AFTER THE JUMP ...

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