- (Photo: Reuters/Maxim Shemetov)
A gay pride parade that was scheduled to take place Oct. 6 in Belgrade, Serbia, was canceled after ultra-nationalists threatened the march following condemnation by the country's Orthodox Church.
"Based on all security estimates and recommendations, the interior ministry made the decision that it is necessary to ban all gatherings announced for October 6, including the pride march, for the sake of citizens' safety," Prime Minister Ivica Dacic said, according to AFP.
"This does not mean any withdrawal or capitulation," Dacic added, insisting that the administration is not giving ground to the ultra-nationalists who said the parade would have been attacked.
"However, it is estimated that at this moment public order could be seriously jeopardized, which could endanger the interests of citizens and the state," the prime minister admitted.
Orthodox Church Patriarch Irinej had called upon Dacic to ban the march just hours before the official announcement, not because of safety reasons but because he branded the gay pride parade as a "parade of shame" – the Orthodox Church views homosexuality as a sin, and has previously spoken out against gay-themed events in Serbia.
This is the second annual gay pride parade in a row that has been banned in Serbia, after violent protests threatened last year's event as well. Threatening messages had made rounds on the Internet and had been spray-painted around the city. The first and only gay pride parade in Serbia was held in 2010, but it resulted in riots with over 150 people injured.
Same-sex marriage is illegal in Serbia, and there is no recognition of gay relationships under the law. Conservatives in the country have often attacked attempts to organize gay-themed events in the country.
The AFP noted that Dacic's choice to ban the parade may not sit too well with other European representatives, after Sweden's European Affairs Minister Birgitta Ohlsson had been scheduled to be a key speaker at the event, saying that it would be an "act of solidarity." Serbia only became a candidate for European Union membership back in February.
Parade organizers have also criticized the government, saying that the decision to ban the event was siding with the ultra-conservatives.
"If the state capitulated last year, this is an open coalition with hooligans considering that representatives of the executive branch of government completely adopted the arguments of extremist organizations, and even their demands," said Goran Miletić, one of the organizers.