From West End Extra:

Maris Sants, who works in a coffee house in Winnett Street, Soho, was excommunicated from the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Latvia in 2002 because of his sexuality, and his case was highlighted by Amnesty International after he was attacked by anti-gay thugs.

In the years after he came out as gay, the 45-year-old found himself the focus of much attention in the media.

People came from far and wide to congregate outside the church in Riga where he officiated but instead of listening to his sermons the skinhead visitors held placards condemning homosexuality.

Some even threw excrement or violently attacked him, abuse which caused Mr Sants to emigrate to London.

“There was a time in around 2005 when, possibly for a year or two, I was one of only two publicly known gay guys in the whole country,” said Mr Sants. “Those who came out, most of them had to immediately emigrate. By the time I came out at the age of 36 I had been through different healing programmes. I had been to psychiatrists and psychotherapists and had gone to ‘ex-gay’ ministries with evangelical Christians who believe homosexuality can be cured. When I turned 33 a serious thing happened and I understood – and this was really like a revelation – that actually it was completely OK. I understood then that hiding my homosexuality was a sin.”

“One thing I have experi­enced since coming to London is that I have for­gotten I am gay,” he said. “By this I mean I have forgotten what it feels like to be different, which is something new and wonderful. Here people don’t recognise me in the street. They don’t point and say ‘He is gay. He is different.’ I would almost say that I am healed because of this.”