The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg has ruled that Russia’s law on “gay propaganda” is discriminatory, and encourages an atmosphere of homophobia.
The ruling was 6-1, with the dissenting vote coming from Dmitry Dedov, who is Russian.
Three gay rights activists (Nikolai V. Bayev, 42; Aleksei A. Kiselev, 33; and Nikolai A. Alekseyev, 39) in Russia have been fined under the law after they protested it in 2009-2012. Their protests were made outside a secondary school in Ryazan, a children’s library in Archangel and an administrative building in St Petersburg.
The European Court said the fines they were charged violated Article 10 (freedom of expression) and Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The court said the law was “not clearly defined” and was implemented arbitrarily. They ruled that the legislation “served no legitimate public interest.”
The court also said Russia “failed to demonstrate how freedom of expression on LGBT issues would devalue or otherwise adversely affect actual and existing ‘traditional families’ or would compromise their future.” The judges said the law “embodied a predisposed bias on the part of a heterosexual majority against a homosexual minority.”
Russia has been ordered to pay the activists between €8,000 and €20,000.
One of the activists, Nikolai Alexeyev, described the ruling as a “total victory.” In a statement he said, “The way this law has been applied shows that it is not aimed at protecting minors, but at removing LGBT people, an enormous social group, from the public space, and at stripping them of their right to speak out or fight for their rights.”
Russia’s justice ministry said they will appeal the ruling, issuing a statement that the law is aimed “exclusively at protecting the morals and health of children.”
What Is Russia’s “Gay Propaganda” Law?
Russia’s “gay propaganda” law, passed in 2013, bans the promotion of homosexuality to people under 18 years of age. Private individuals found promoting “homosexual behavior among minors” face fines of up to 5,000 rubles ( $85), and officials can be fined ten times that amount. Businesses and schools in violation of the law can be fined up to 500,000 rubles.