Europe rights court: Russia cannot ban LGBT public assemblies

Europe rights court: Russia cannot ban LGBT public assemblies

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled Tuesday that Russian courts violated LGBT individuals’ freedom of assembly rights by consistently rejecting gay pride event applications.

In its judgment, the ECHR stated that 14 applicants sought to gain approval to hold public LGBT events, such as PRIDE, but were systemically denied by local Russian authorities. These denials were subsequently challenged, but Russian domestic courts consistently upheld these local authorities’ decisions. The ECHR agreed to hear the case of all 14 applicants together due to their similar factual and legal backgrounds.

The ECHR stated:

Having examined all the material submitted to it, the Court has not found any fact or argument capable of persuading it to reach a different conclusion as to the merits of these complaints … the Court considers that in the instant case the ban on holding LGBT public assemblies imposed by the domestic authorities did not correspond to a pressing social need and was thus not necessary in a democratic society. The Court also finds that the applicants suffered unjustified discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, that that discrimination was incompatible with the standards of the [Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms], and that they were denied an effective domestic remedy in respect of their complaints concerning a breach of their freedom of assembly.

The applicants also sought compensation in the form of damages ranging from approximately USD $5,500 to $550,000. However, the court said that a finding that Russia violated their freedoms of assembly was a sufficient remedy.

Russia has long received international criticism for its anti-LGBT propaganda and policies. In a 2017 report, the Russian LGBT Network, a human rights organization striving to better the treatment of LGBT individuals in Russia, documented many instances of LGBT discrimination. In one such instance, a man was denied a job opportunity due to his “feminine speech and gestures” and “excessive grooming and provocative clothing.” In litigation, the company defended its actions by citing Russian laws which prohibit exposing minors to “gay propoganda.” In another, a man was shot in the face by an individual believed to have been motivated by anti-LGBT animus. Although an investigation into the matter was launched shortly after the incident, the Russian authorities suspended the investigation and denied to pursue it further in 2015.