- By Emily TamkinEmily Tamkin is a staff writer at Foreign Policy. She writes for FP’s The Cable, a real-time take on the news in Washington and the wider world. She has been at FP since the fall of 2016, before which she was an associate editor at New America, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington. She has a B.A. in Russian literature from Columbia University, an M.Phil. in Russian and East European studies from the University of Oxford, and studied Soviet dissidence in archival centers in Moscow, Tbilisi, and, on a Fulbright, in Bremen — all of which means that at FP, she writes when she can on Russia and Central and Eastern Europe.
A member of Bulgarian parliament said in a television interview on Friday that legislators should have to reveal their sexual orientation as a potential form of conflict of interest.
Veselin Mareshki, who came to parliament in March as part of a populist party, said that closeted parliamentarians could be “dependent on people who have secret recordings of their activities,” and that such blackmail could even lead Bulgaria to war with Russia. (Ironically, the “blackmail” logic was used for years, without proof, to prevent gay Americans from getting security clearances, until then President Bill Clinton ended the practice over two decades ago.)
Mareshki, who has described himself as the “Bulgarian Donald Trump,” mused that perhaps gay people feel the need to hide their sexual orientation because they are ashamed.
Given that just five years ago a Bulgarian Orthodox priest called for participants of Sofia’s pride march to be stoned, shame is likely not the reason some gay parliamentarians do not want to reveal their sexual orientation.
LGBTQ rights activists condemned Mareshki’s comments. Radoslav Stoyanov, who is organizing this year’s pride parade in Sofia, told Balkan Insight, “His statement carries the message that gay people have to be deprived of political representation and should not be in power.” However, he does not think that activist outrage will turn into political action, given that mainstream political parties in Bulgaria are unsupportive of initiatives that might further gay rights in the country.
Lest one think that controversy over politicians posture toward LGBTQ rights is limited to Eastern Europe: Trump — the American, not Bulgarian version — made headlines by not recognizing June as Pride Month, unlike his predecessor U.S. President Barack Obama. His predecessor, George W. Bush, didn’t recognize it either, but he opposed gay marriage, which Trump, shortly after his election, noted was already the law of the land.
Photo credit: DIMITAR DILKOFF/AFP/Getty Images