Coalition stance on LGBTQ issues prompts koroonakaart creator to close site
The project manager and co-developer of the volunteer-run koroonakaart.ee website, which has been collating and displaying Estonia's coronavirus data since March, has said he will stop updating the site in protest over the coalition's treatment of LGBTQ people.
A message posted on the website by postdoctoral researcher Dr. Keegan McBride on Thursday night said: "The current government coalition has shown time and time again that, to them, some people are more equal than others. During a global pandemic, when families all around Estonia are suffering, the government's most pressing issue is whether or not two people who love each other can get married. This portal was originally built to support the government in providing clear and accurate information to the Estonian people. However, as project manager, a foreigner, and supporter of LGBTQ rights, I can no longer keep this site up and running in support of a government that does not uphold the Estonian constitution or help to create a more tolerant and accepting society."
The website is now blank and displays McBride's message in both Estonian and English. The Koroonakaart logo is rainbow-striped and links to a page titled "LGBT situation in Estonia" on the Estonian Human Rights Council's website when clicked on.
Koroonakaart.ee was created in the spring during the "Hack the Crisis" hackathon organized by Garage48 and has been run on a voluntary basis ever since. It displayed COVID-19 rates, testing, hospitalization and death data from the Health Board related to the coronavirus in Estonia. McBride was the website's maintainer and project manager.
Unlike Estonia's Health Board's data visualization page, koroonakaart.ee displayed the data in three languages: Estonian, English and Russian. The Health Board (Terviseamet) only releases the daily data in Estonian.
McBride told Delfi Forte: "I have direct experience through my family members, I know how painful it was for them to listen to it in the U.S. Now the Estonian government is saying these things and I understand how vulnerable it is for the Estonian LGBTQ community."
When asked if he thought this would change anything, he said: "All I know is that I made the right decision for myself, my values and my conscience."
Spokesperson for the Health Board Eike Kingsepp told ERR News on Friday morning the board plans to publish the information in different languages in the future.
"We have started the Health Board corona map ENG/RUS versions project already. Considering the developments with koroonakaart.ee last night, we are definitely going to speed up the work to be able to offer information also in Russian and English ASAP," she said.
On Thursday, following four days of crisis talks caused by Minister of the Interior Mart Helme's (EKRE) comments in the international media where he stated gay people in Estonia should relocate to Sweden, the coalition agreed to move forward the date of the referendum on the definition of marriage from November 2021 to spring, drawing a line under the crisis. The three parties also issued a joint statement about protecting human rights.
Helme is still in office and has not apologized for his comments, claiming he was misquoted. EKRE claimed they did not start the crisis and said on Monday they no longer trusted the Center party.
ERR News has used koroonakaart to download data, create graphs and report on the figures when the Health Board stopped publishing the data during the summer, due to the then comparatively low number of new cases.
Mcbride told ERR News: "The main thing is that to the LGBTQ people in Estonia, even if the government says they don't matter, they should know that this is wrong, they do matter, they are not alone, and they have a lot of support."
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Editor: Helen Wright