A multi-national Baltic Pride organized in Riga, Latvia. The event was organized by Latvian organization Mozaika, the Lithuanian Gay League, and Estonian Gay Youth, in spite of movements to Ban it and a simultaneous anti-gay protest.
>Baltic Pride is a new concept in the world of LGBT activism, whether on the organizational level or the date chosen for the Baltic "pride".The event took place from the 14th to the 17th on May 2009, which coincides with the week of the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO) whereas Pride weeks usually take place in the month of June.

But the choice of date was not the only unusual thing about the Baltic Pride. The event was not just a national event. It was organized by a result of the cooperation between three Baltic nations - Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania - the deal being that for the upcoming three years Baltic Pride will be organized in one of the Baltic countries mentioned above.

This year the event was organized in Riga, Latvia. Having acquired permission from Riga City Council – Commission on Meetings, Marches and Demonstrations - on May 8, organizers started preparations, established their website (www.balticpride.eu) and started spreading the word.
On the 13th of May however, a majority of Riga’s City Council members signed an open letter to the Executive Director of the city council to revoke the permission and threatening to overrule the decision through voting.

The European legislation protects individuals' and groups' right to assembly and expression of identity. Human rights and the Lebanese law, in theory fulfill the same role. So building on that right, the organizers refused to give in to the decision and made an injunction to the court and were granted a hearing on Friday at the Municipal Court overturning the decision to ban the march.

In parallel, Baltic Pride mobilized regional and international media and authorities to pressure the Riga City Council. Amnesty International (has covered the event when it was threatened, banned then when it got the green light and finally the event course), Ilga-Europe )Covered the whole event extensively), The Baltic Course (with one article)etc.

Ilke Jaspers is a young Belgian LGBTQ activist that has recently moved to Estonia to dedicate the next couple of years to LGBTQ activism. Building on a friendship that was born on Berlin Pride 2008, I asked Ilke about Baltic Pride and her feelings about it. About the legal victory she said “this could only happen because it was allowed in the end to march”.

But the march itself was a challenge with homophobes rallying for a counter march to, but the Police was deployed in force and prevented any incident. The issue was that the Riga City Council argued that it would not be safe to allow such a demonstration, “it [police protection] was needed, the event and march ended being totally safe but not because there weren’t people around us who were aggressive. The opposite is true, it was full of anti-protesters shouting, giving us the finger, showing those weird signs like “gay =AIDS” and the “more gays, the less Latvians”” said Ilke.

In the end, if we were to take any lesson from the Baltic Pride's success then that lesson would be "networking, lobbying and your rights". Baltic Pride is the little baby of a networking effort between three Baltic countries. It was protected by the strong lobbying with several international human rights and LGBTQ rights organization. And last but not least, Baltic Pride had the right to exist and they refused to give up that right.

As for the future, it seems bright according to Ilke “I am only hopeful for the future, I sincerely believe it will get better every year”. In 2010, Baltic Pride will be in Vilnius, Lithuania and 2011 in Tartu, Estonia. Congratulations to the Baltic Pride organizers.