In a historic, unprecedented move, a Georgian political party has nominated an openly gay candidate for public office.
Running on the non-parliamentary opposition Republican Party ticket, Nino Bolkvadze, a 40-year-old lawyer and LGBT rights advocate, is seeking a city councillorship in Tbilisi, the nation's capital and largest city.
“I want Georgia to be a better place for my children,” said Bolkvadze, a single mother of two teenage girls who was shunned by her family for coming out on the country’s most popular TV show two years ago.
Established by dissidents some four decades ago and once outlawed by the Soviet Supreme Court, Georgia's Republican Party became a full member of The Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe, a liberal-centrist political group of the European Parliament, in 2007.
“Do not vote for Nino simply because she is gay, there are plenty of reasons why voters should choose her,” said Tamar Kordzaia, the Republican Party’s secretary general. She went on to list some concerns that Bolkvadze vows to tackle: “Single mothers’ programs; representing minorities; working with vulnerable social groups; creating LGBT shelters.”
"Ahead of local elections, we announced [that] our doors were open for anyone willing to participate in politics," Kordzaia told VOA's Georgian Service, recalling how Bolkvadze's nomination was formulated. "There were only two prerequisites—a candidate must not be pro-Russian and shall be of liberal ideology.”
Bolkvadze, one of the first to respond, was nominated amidst the tumult of a constitutional amendment forged by parliament's ruling Georgian Dream coalition, in which legislators sought to shore up conservative populist support by constitutionally protecting marriage as "a union between a man and a woman." While Georgian law has long defined marriage as a "voluntary union of a man and woman," it had not been constitutionally inscribed.
LGBT activists, including Bolkvadze, say violence against sexual minorities, not same sex marriage, is Georgia's number one LGBT issue, and yet parliamentarians appear to be pursuing a more cosmetic, populist agenda instead of tackling the more immediate threat of violence driven by homophobia.