Bulgarian High Court: Claims that gay people are more dangerous than smoking constitute harassment

Submitted by Radoslav Stoyanov

The Supreme Administrative Court of Bulgaria has ruled that statements made by public figures claiming that gay men are more dangerous than tobacco smoking constitute harassment of homosexual men on the grounds of sexual orientation.
The ruling is in favour of the Bulgarian LGBT activists Radoslav Stoyanov and Dobromir Dobrev who complained to the national equality body against the famous Bulgarian film director Andrey Slabakov.
During a television interview in 2011, Slabakov stated that “gays are more dangerous than tobacco smoking because they spread AIDS on a mass scale”. He stressed that this is particularly dangerous because “some of them are bisexual”, and are therefore likely to have sexual relations with straight people as well.
The LGBT activists Stoyanov and Dobrev filed a complaint with the national equality body, the Commission for Protection against Discrimination. The Commission did not find any violation of the national Protection against Discrimination Act which transposes EU directives.
The applicants filed an appeal in the district administrative court which overturned the equality body’s decision. In a surprising twist, it was not the defendant but the equality body that appealed this decision in the Supreme Administrative Court. The high court nevertheless upheld the district court’s decision.
In its decision the Supreme Court has recognised that Andrey Slabakov is a well-known public figure in Bulgaria and as such can be an influential opinion-maker. The fact that the interview had been aired during prime time and on national television has also been taken into consideration.
The court has also highlighted that there is no absolute freedom of speech under Bulgarian constitution, hence slanders that violate the dignity of a person and create an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment on the ground of sexual orientation are not considered protected speech under Bulgarian and EU law.
The decision is final and obliges the national equality body to impose administrative measures or administrative penal provisions on Slabakov. The Commission for Protection against Discrimination is expected to reach a decision.
Radoslav Stoyanov
Sofia, Bulgaria
+359 899 470 703

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