Two Russian gay rights activists were arrested in St. Petersburg on Thursday for violating a new law banning promotion of homosexuality to minors that became effective last month [JURIST report]. The two activists were arrested for picketing against the law. The St. Petersburg police on Saturday also detained two gay rights activists [RIA Novosti report] for protesting the law by marching through the town with tape across their mouths. The law bans the promotion of homosexuality, including gay pride parades and any activity in public which could influence children and that could be viewed as promoting a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) lifestyle. The law has been surrounded by controversy both before and after its passage and has been challenged in Russian courts by gay activists who argue that the law bans the slightest reference to homosexuality. The bill, which was introduced in November 2011 [JURIST report], is supported by those who claim it is necessary because homosexual propaganda "threatens" Russia and that "sexual deviation" negatively impacts Russian children.
Russia has long struggled with the acceptance of homosexuality. In 2008, several Russian gay rights activists were arrested [JURIST report] by police in Moscow for holding events commemorating the 1993 law that put an end to government prosecution for homosexual activity in Russia. It was the third consecutive year Moscow Pride held events around the city to elude officials attempting to enforce a local ban on gay pride parades [JURIST report] that was put in place due to fears of violence. According to legal scholars, the Russian Constitution [text] may allow limitations to be placed on the rights of homosexuals due to the constitutional ability to balance the interests of society and limit rights of a social group if they infringe upon the rights of another social group.