Being gay hasn’t been a crime in Russia since the Soviet era, but Orthodox Church leaders are successfully pushing anti-gay legislation. Last week, St. Petersburg became the fourth Russian city to pass a law banning “homosexual propaganda,” a vague measure that effectively bans gay pride parades.
The law criminalizes “public action aimed at propagandizing sodomy, lesbianism, bisexualism, and transgenderism among minors,” the Guardian reported. Those who break the law could be fined up to $16,000, the Christian Science Monitor reported.
Dmitry Pershin, who heads the Church’s youth council, told the Guardian the law would help “protect children from information manipulation by minorities that promote sodomy." Close allies of Vladimir Putin, the president-elect, support federal anti-gay laws.
Yury Gavrikov, the head of the gay rights group Equality, said that Russian higher-ups tend to quash any group that stands up for its rights, the Guardian reported.
"The main goal seems to be limiting the rights of those who engage in social activity,” Gavrikov told the Guardian. “But in its widest sense, it can mean limiting exhibits, plays, film showings – cultural activities."
Polina Savchenko, a gay-rights activist in St. Petersburg, told the Christian Science Monitor that no legal experts have been able to explain to her how the law would be applied in practice.
"There is a fear that it will be used as an instrument to prevent any kind of activity the state doesn't approve of,” Savchenko said. “The language of the law is so vague that it could apply to any kind of public discourse, any discussion of gay issues, in almost any venue. I mean, how can you be sure that minors won't access the Internet, or read mass media discussions?"
Russia decriminalized homosexuality in 1993 but hostility remains. Gay pride parades have been banned in Moscow, according to ThinkProgress.org; in May, when activists marched anyway, police moved in and beat up 30 people.
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