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Russia Supreme Court: gay pride parades not 'propaganda'

The Supreme Court of Russia [official website, in Russian] upheld the Arkhangelsk region's ban on "gay propaganda" on Thursday, but ruled that gay pride parades and other demonstrations in support of gay rights are legal. According to the court, the ban applies only to direct appeals to minors to engage in homosexual activity [RIA Novosti report] and even then information about homosexuality can still be provided to minors as long as it is neutral in tone. The ban, which has been proposed to extend nationally, imposes a fine of USD $1,600 for "gay propaganda." Russian lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) activist group Russian LGBT Network [advocacy website, in Russian] approved [press release, in Russian] of the ruling that merely having gay rights demonstrations was not illegal, but still disagrees with any assertion that homosexuality harms family values.

Russia has long struggled with the acceptance of homosexuality. In August LGBT activists brought suit over the Russian Justice Ministry's refusal to register Pride House [JURIST report] for the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympic Games. Also that month Russia's best-known gay rights activist Nikolay Alexeyev lost a court challenge [JURIST report] to Moscow's 100-year municipal ban on gay pride marches. He intends to appeal the decision to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), which has already ordered Russia to pay Alexeyev [JURIST report] an award of €12,000 for non-pecuniary damages plus €17,510 for costs and attorneys fees (USD $41,090 total) for rejecting his license application for a gay pride gathering. In March St. Petersburg announced that the city's governor had signed into law a bill that would impose fines against people convicted of promoting homosexuality, including gays or lesbians who are open about their sexuality. Individuals convicted under the law would be subject to fines between 3,000 and 5,000 rubles (US $100-160) [Moscow Times report], while organizations could be fined up to 50,000 rubles for "promoting" homosexuality. In December Senior Lecturer of Sociology at the University of Surrey Paul Johnson [university profile] wrote that the latest ban by Russian authorities on the promotion of homosexuality to minors is only the most recent violation of the ECHR ruling [JURIST comment] on the subject.

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