S. Korean court over­turns ban on gay pride pa­rade


South Korean rights ac­tivists on Wed­nes­day cel­e­brated a court’s de­ci­sion to over­turn a ban on a gay pride pa­rade in Seoul, but con­ser­va­tive Chris­tians de­nounced the rul­ing as en­cour­ag­ing “evil” be­hav­ior.

Po­lice had cited public safety con­cerns and traf­fic dis­rup­tion as the rea­sons be­hind the ban im­posed last month, but the Seoul Ad­min­is­tra­tive Court on Tues­day ruled in fa­vor of the pa­rade.

“As­sem­blies can be pro­hib­ited only when they di­rectly threaten public or­der,” the court said in a state­ment.

It also noted that the or­ga­niz­ers of the an­nual pa­rade had long been pre­par­ing for the event and would suf­fer great dam­age it if were scrapped.

“We welcome the de­ci­sion,” Kang Myeong-jin, chief of the Korea Queer Cul­ture Fes­ti­val told jour­nal­ists.

“The court has sent a mes­sage to the public that sex­ual mi­nori­ties should also be guar­an­teed rights to speech as a mem­ber of a demo­cratic so­ci­ety,” he said.

The gay pride pa­rade will now take place on June 28 in the cen­ter of Seoul as sched­uled, wrap­ping up an an­nual fes­ti­val that kicked off on June 9.

More than 20,000 peo­ple in­clud­ing les­bians, gays, and bi­sex­ual and trans­gen­der peo­ple are ex­pected to take part in the gala pa­rade, the or­ga­niz­ers said.

But they face fer­vent op­po­si­tion from con­ser­va­tive Chris­tian groups who plan to stage a street march in protest.

“We are greatly dis­ap­pointed at the rul­ing. This is out­ra­geous. With the rul­ing, the court is en­cour­ag­ing the evil thing,” a spokesman for the Chris­tian Coun­cil of Korea (CCK) told AFP.

“We will gather some 50,000 peo­ple to stop the pa­rade through ral­lies and counter-pa­rades,” he said.

‘Mayor of Sodom’ Con­demned

The CCK and four other Protes­tant groups have urged Seoul to ban the fes­ti­val en­tirely, ar­gu­ing that it en­cour­ages ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity and would con­trib­ute to the spread of AIDS.

Bod­ies like the CCK — an al­liance of churches that claims to rep­re­sent around 12 mil­lion Chris­tians — wield sig­nif­i­cant so­cial and po­lit­i­cal in­flu­ence in the coun­try.

Seoul Mayor Park Won-Soon, a for­mer lib­eral ac­tivist, was last year forced to dump a pro­posed city hu­man rights char­ter which in­cluded pro­tec­tions for sex­ual mi­nori­ties, af­ter a storm of crit­i­cism from the same Chris­tian groups.

Since then, a hand­ful of Chris­tian ac­tivists have be­come a near daily fix­ture in front of City Hall, singing songs and chant­ing slo­gans that la­bel Park as the “mayor of Sodom.”

Gay and trans­gen­der Kore­ans live largely un­der the radar in a coun­try that re­mains deeply con­ser­va­tive about mat­ters of sex­ual iden­tity and where many still re­gard ho­mo­sex­u­al­ity as a for­eign phe­nom­e­non.

Rights ac­tivists say the po­lice ban on the pa­rade was the first since the an­nual Queer Cul­ture Fes­ti­val be­gan 15 years ago.

At last year’s gay pride pa­rade, hun­dreds of par­tic­i­pants moved through the city cen­ter on foot or on the back of dec­o­rated trucks, wav­ing rain­bow flags and wear­ing flam­boy­ant cos­tumes.

The pa­rade has in re­cent years at­tracted a grow­ing num­ber of par­tic­i­pants — but also an equally swelling crowd of crit­ics.

Last year, Chris­tian ac­tivists dis­rupted the pa­rade by ly­ing down in the street.

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