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Jean Luc Romero: “Gay pride can also help combat AIDS”
Interview – 27.03.2007
As the Congress prepares a report on “freedom of expression and assembly for lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transsexuals”, Jean-Luc Roméro, regional councillor for Ile-de-France, reminds local elected representatives that far from posing a threat to law and order, gay pride marches actually strengthen social cohesion and the rights of all members of society.
Question: You are well known in France for your efforts to combat homophobia and discrimination against people with HIV/AIDS. In some European countries, gay and lesbian demonstrations, such as the gay pride marches, have been suppressed or even banned. What do you think about this?
Jean-Luc Roméro: I am appalled, especially by the decision to ban the Moscow Gay Pride parade last year, and which is liable to be repeated this year. Other rallies of this kind have been suppressed in other countries, or have been hampered by provocations to which the police have turned a blind eye. It is quite simply intolerable, and I would like to remind all local elected representatives that these events should be permitted and supervised like any other. It is a question of freedom. The mayors who invent excuses for banning them, such as security or morality, are violating freedom of expression and all the European instruments that safeguard that freedom. I would also point out that in the major European cities, the gay pride marches always go very smoothly, without any violence, such as the Paris parade which attracts 600,000 people every year and where there is never any trouble.
Question: You argue that quite apart from respect for human rights, gay and lesbian rallies also have a social and preventive role: what do they have to offer here?
Jean-Luc Roméro: Being able to express one’s sexuality frees people to lead better lives, both as individuals and as a community. It is worth noting, for example, that the suicide rate among gays is 13 times higher than among heterosexuals, precisely because many of them suffer discrimination and tend to hide away. Similarly, AIDS spreads because of lack of information and prevention, and events such as gay pride help to raise awareness about vital protective measures, among the population as a whole.
Question: What are you hoping for from the Congress and what do you want to say to European local and regional representatives?
Jean-Luc Roméro: I would like to see the Congress passing a very firm recommendation denouncing the practice of banning gay pride marches in Europe. At the same time, however, local and regional elected representatives need to step up their daily fight against AIDS and homophobia. The Ile-de-France region has a regional information centre on AIDS, which aims to do just that. I have also set up an association called “local councillors against AIDS” which already has 13,000 members and will hopefully continue expanding, so that we can better address these issues everywhere.