Nikolai Alexeyev, the founder of Moscow Pride, and fellow activist Yaroslav Yevtushenko were each fined the equivalent of $120 for holding a banner contesting the existence of “Gay Propaganda” near a public library in the city of Arkhangelsk on Tuesday, December 3.
The banner, which read “Gay propaganda doesn’t exist. People don’t become gay, people are born gay” was found to be in violation of Part 1 of Article 6.21 of Russia’s Code of Administrative Offenses, which prohibits the promotion of “non-traditional sexual relations” among minors.
The law is intended to “protect children from information, propaganda and campaigns that can harm their health and moral and spiritual development,” and according to the Constitutional Court which dismissed Alexeyev’s legal challenge to the St. Petersburg propaganda law, the banner threatened Russian children’s safety.
“It is the first in the history of Russian court decisions on prosecution for promoting non-traditional sexual relations under the new federal law,” Alexeyev said, after leaving the court which charged him with the fine.
The activists’ next step is to appeal the case to the European Court of Human Rights, calling into question the validity of the law, which has been criticized worldwide for its use in suppressing the LGBT community in Russia.
In the United States, a review of a Russian gay man’s plea for asylum is being reviewed by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), after a US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals panel found that there is ample evidence to suggest that the applicant has sufficient reason to fear persecution should he return to Russia.
The anti-gay political climate is so heated in Russia that Circuit Judge Arthur L. Alarcon noted that the Russian applicant was allowed to proceed anonymously, using a “John Doe” filing, something granted only “in exceptional cases where necessary to protect a person from harassment, injury, ridicule, or personal embarrassment.”
Doe’s testimony of harassment and persecution due to his sexual orientation was found compelling by the immigration judge who originally reviewed his application. The applicant stated that he suffered two violent attacks from fellow students while attending East Siberian Technological University in his hometown of Ulan-Ude. The Russian police response to his attempts to file a claim were found to be inadequate; his complaint was dismissed, despite an evident eye injury and bruises, and he was asked why he didn’t defend himself.
In a second attack in April 2003, John Doe and his boyfriend were beaten by other customers in a restaurant where they were having dinner, and the applicant was knocked unconscious, suffered internal brain hemorrhaging and a concussion, and was hospitalized for three weeks.
A second attempt to file a report was dismissed by police, and Dow received a letter saying the case would not be prosecuted, based on a provision in the criminal code that was referenced but not spelled out.
While John Doe’s application for asylum was originally denied on the basis that he could not prove “widespread persecution of homosexuals in Russia,” his case is now under review in light of the anti-gay legislation, and the oppressive anti-gay climate which is supported and perpetuated by the state government.
“We are persuaded, after reviewing this record, that the BIA erred in concluding that Doe failed to demonstrate that the Russian government was unable or unwilling to control the persons he identified as having persecuted him on account of his homosexuality,” wrote John Alarcon in his opinion for the appeals panel in 2009.
“The Government failed to present any evidence to rebut Doe’s undisputed testimony that he suffered serious assaults at the hands of individuals on account of his homosexuality or to show that the Russian government was able and willing to control nongovernmental actors who attack homosexuals.”