TALLINN - Less than a month after Latvia's tumultuous gay bashing incident, Tallinn will attempt to host a series of gay pride festivities, although organizers expect a more peaceful reception from Estonians. The Tallinn Pride festival will run until Aug. 13, and participants hope to use the week to raise awareness about the lack of common rights for same sex couples.
Unlike in Riga, there has not been a loud protest over the event. The Christian Democrats party, which has no seats in parliament, asked the city to ban the pride parade, which is scheduled to take place on Aug. 12. The same party has made similar complaints in previous years, but their attempts to ban the event have consistently failed.
Maali Kabin, spokeswoman for the event, said Estonia was a largely tolerant country.
"But we still want to normalize homosexuality in society, so that gay people feel comfortable in society here," Kabin said.
She said gay couples did not enjoy the same rights as opposite-sex couples.
"This discussion has been going on in our parliament since January, and we want to raise awareness of the issues. Gay couples should have the right to declare their income together, to have children and to have marriages," Kabin said.
While previous gay parades have not faced the same level of violence as witnessed in Riga, participants did report being abused by "skinheads." Chairman of the Estonian Gay League, Silvar Laanemae, said he was once chased while holding a rainbow flag.
"I attended the gay pride march last year with my partner. We passed the club for skinheads, and two men started to run after us because we were carrying the rainbow flag. I am big and strong enough, so they evaluated the situation and decided not to do anything. It was the first time we have ever really been threatened," Laanemae said.
He said several of Tallinn's gay bars had received hoax bomb threats during previous parades, though he added that Estonians were largely tolerant.
Two previous gay pride parades have been held in Tallinn. The first, in 2004, drew protests from Christian leaders, but was held peacefully.
In other Baltic nations, such events have not enjoyed such tolerance.
At Riga's recent gay pride week, protests turned violent as anti-gay activists hurled objects 's allegedly including faeces - at people attending a gay church service.
Several people have already been fined for causing a public disruption, while others are still due to face court over more serious charges stemming from the protests.
In Lithuania, the city of Klaipeda was recently embarassed when it refused an application to hold a gay parade, only to discover the application was lodged by a local newspaper as a test.
Tallinn has also had its share of controversy, however.
The Dutch Ambassador to Estonia,Â Hans Glaubitz, quit his post in June because his partner, a gay black man, had endured abuse while in Tallinn.
#It is not very nice to be regularly abused by drunken skinheads as a 'nigger' and to be continuously gawped at as if you have just stepped out of a UFO," Glaubitz told the Dutch media.
"Estonian society is far from ready to accept two men, especially if one is black.#
As well as the pride parade, the festival will also feature film and information nights.