Estonian Court Rules LGBTI Film Festival Must Receive Full Funding

The court dispute concerning the LGBTI+ film festival, Festheart, which has taken place in the town Rakvere for the past three years, came to a positive conclusion, showing that city council levels are not free to discriminate.

The Administrative Court of Estonia has reversed the Rakvere city council's unexplained decision to reduce the financial support of this autumn's Festheart film festival. Festheart asked for 1,500 euros to organise the festival, but the council disregarded the rules they had established themselves and assigned a mere 300 euros in funding. The court declared the city council’s decision unlawful. The Administrative Court adjudicated on a similar matter two weeks prior, concerning the lack of financing for the festival in 2018.

At the beginning of the last year, Rakvere City Council decided not to support Festheart, which is organized by MTÜ Sevenbow. This January, the city gave an embarrassing repetitive performance, once again cutting the financial support for the festival. Although the Cultural Commission evaluated all the applications and found that MTÜ Sevenbow's application qualified for support, the City Council decided to cut the funding by 80 percent. All other support was confirmed according to the existing order and the proposition of the Cultural Commission. This created a worrying situation in which the council's decision making process is questionable, opaque, and does not take into account the interests of all members of the community.

The court ordered the city of Rakvere has to pay out the missing sum for this year's festival. But perhaps more importantly, the Administrative Court's decision sends a clear signal that this kind of biased and unfair decision making will not be tolerated. This is an important step in decreasing discrimination towards minority groups and bears a strong message for all minorities, encouraging them to fight for their rights, and that they can rely on the judicial system to support them.