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27 Dec, 2020 17:43

My two daddies: Row rages in Latvia over LGBT-friendly children’s books as critics blast initiative ‘imposed by EU elites’

My two daddies: Row rages in Latvia over LGBT-friendly children’s books as critics blast initiative ‘imposed by EU elites’

For modern liberals, they are an important step in normalizing different kinds of families. But for others, children’s books depicting gay parents are an attack on traditional values. That’s the debate now playing out in Latvia.

On Saturday, local media in the Baltic state reported that a complaint had been formally lodged with authorities over a new illustrated volume entitled ‘Time To Go To Sleep.’ After buying the children’s book, one woman said she was “unpleasantly surprised” to find “a story about a girl with two dads. I think it’s absurd to sell something like that.”

Sandris Tocs, a Latvian publicist, took to social media to ask how “we can want to be part of the EU, and turn a blind eye to this?” He suggested that recent drives for greater LGBT+ rights came from the bloc’s “elite,” and that it was unwanted by “most people.” 

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Not everyone in Latvia echoes those sentiments, however, with press there quoting one online commenter as saying, “oh, no! The child will find out that there are different types of families in the world! And that it is normal to love anyone, regardless of their gender. What can we do now?”

Latvia currently has among the most limited provisions for LGBT+ people in the EU, and marriage is not legal for same-sex couples. Adoption is also limited to couples in a heterosexual union and to single people. As a result, the circumstances in ‘Time To Go To Sleep’ are not possible under current Latvian law.

Similar debates have played out in neighboring Baltic nations, where there is often a clash of values between older citizens and younger people with stronger cultural ties to Western and Northern Europe. In 2014, Estonia became the first former Soviet Republic to legalize gay marriage, after a tight parliamentary vote that passed by only two votes. Likette Kampus, an LGBT+ rights activist said at the time that “mentally, we want to belong in Scandinavia and share those same liberal values.”

However, there was a much broader split across Estonian society, with a poll by public broadcaster ERR finding that 58 per cent of the population was against the bill. Older respondents and the Russian-speaking community, which accounts for about a quarter of the country, were far more likely to be critical.

Conservative groups, which are often seen to be in favor of closer ties with Moscow, staged demonstrations in the streets against the decision, which was not underpinned by a public vote. Varro Vooglaid of the Foundation for the Protection of Family and Tradition insisted that his group was independent from Russia, but that it sought to emulate its stance on the issue. “I’m not in favor of criminalizing private life,” he said,  “but on the other hand… not allowing the homosexual lobby to propagandize in society, especially among children – yes, I do agree.”

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