Mayor of Bulgaria capital endorses anti-marriage campaign

SOFIA, Bulgaria — Yordanka Fandakova, the first female mayor of the Bulgarian capital of Sofia, will officiate the wedding of a different-sex couple as part of a campaign against marriage rights for same-sex couples.

The Society and Values Association, an anti-gay organization that is behind The Week of Marriage campaign, made the announcement.

The Society and Values Association promotes conversion therapy, claims that the “transsexual movement is linked with pedophilia” and opposes LGBTI people’s right to public assembly. It also stands against surrogacy, euthanasia, pornography, prostitution and marijuana.

The Week of Marriage campaign has taken place for the fifth consecutive year, culminating on Valentine’s Day. According to the campaign’s website, it seeks to mobilize society into strengthening and promoting marriage as a union between a man and a woman, as well as traditional family values.

Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria, a conservative center-right political party known by the acronym GERB that is a member of the European People’s Party and the International Democrat Union, nominated Fandakova for public office. Since she became mayor in 2009, Fandakova has never attended or endorsed any LGBTI event, including Sofia Pride – the annual equality march — and the Sofia Pride Film Fest or Sofia Pride Art Week.

Other public figures have also endorsed the campaign: The families of actor Ivaylo Zahariev and producer and director Magarditch Halvadjian; who produces Bulgarian editions of “The X Factor”, “Your Face Sounds Familiar”, “Bulgaria’s Got Talent”, “Fear Factor” and “Star Academy”.

Bulgarian Education Minister Meglena Kuneva in 2014 also endorsed the Society and Values Association campaign. She signed a declaration in “support of family as institution based on the union between one man and one woman” as a candidate for the European Parliament.

The Society and Values Association is not a non-profit registered for the purpose of public interest. Under Bulgarian law, only non-profits registered for the purpose of public interest are obliged to publish their financial reports. This makes other non-profits quite non-transparent.

The Society and Values Association in 2008 successfully campaigned against the legalization of civil partnerships for both different- and same-sex couples. The organization claimed that legalization of civil partnerships would also legalize polygamy, incest and ultimately same-sex marriages.

In 2014 they backed the campaign against the Lunacek report – a document that was to be voted on by the European Parliament that calls for a new EU action plan to combat homophobia and transphobia.

The report was approved despite these efforts.

Nevertheless, the case uncovered the ties of many local NGO’s around Europe with U.S.-based Christian conservative organizations.

European Dignity Watch — a lobby group founded in 2010 in Brussels that advocates for “life, the family and fundamental freedoms” — led the campaign against the Lunacek report. The EU Observer in 2012 published an article about this think tank, noting that according to the EU transparency register, it has an annual budget of tens of thousands of euros — all in the form of anonymous donations.

This year the ninth annual Sofia Pride will take place in Sofia on June 18.

Sofia Pride is the only event in Bulgaria that raises visibility of LGBTI rights activists and their campaigns. The organizing committee is mostly volunteers and it struggles with the lack of support within the community that remains in the closet.

Bulgaria, a former Eastern Bloc country with strong pro-Kremlin traditions, has been a member of the European Union since 2007. The country’s constitution defines marriage as “a union between a man and a woman.”