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Russian Supreme Court Deprived Aggressive Homophobes of Excuses

8 October 2012

Coming Out

Today Russian Supreme Court published the full text of its October 3rd decision against LGBT organization Coming Out's challenge of the "gay propaganda" law of St. Petersburg. This decision followed another Supreme Court's ruling in favor of the similar law in Arkhangelsk in September of this year.

"We were hoping to find new arguments in the court's reasoning for the rejection of our appeal," says Ksenia Kirichenko, lawyer and coordinator of the Legal Aid program of Coming Out. The wording itself of the St. Petersburg law is different from its Arkhangelsk counterpart. For example, in St. Petersburg, the law bans propaganda of "transgenderism" (illiterately labeled "non-traditional sexual relationships" by the Supreme Court). But even though the St. Petersburg case was considered by completely different judges, the published decision contains no new arguments or reasoning. They simply copied excerpts from the Arkhangelsk decision without considering the difference between the two measures. "

Still, Coming Out activists believe this decision to be significant. It clearly indicates that even this ignorant law cannot prohibit public dissemination of information about homosexuality, bisexuality and transgenderness. Earlier, activists argued that the danger of the law is not just in that it represents state discrimination. Its grave consequence is the increased aggression and violence towards gays and lesbians and LGBT rights defenders, with the aggressors using the law as a motive and an excuse for the acts of violence.

With its decision, the Supreme Court effectively banned such aggressive actions by stating that LGBT activists have the right to carry out rallies, and to raise awareness of the vulnerable position of LGBT in Russia and of the need to respect their human dignity. Thus, the text of the decision makes it clear that the "gay propaganda" law does not justify attacks on LGBT people, including those during the May Day March (May 1), and the International Day against Homophobia rally (May 17) of this year.

Coming Out is going to continue working not only to prove the illegality of the law itself, but to counter its consequences, making sure the local police and judges understand and properly use these Supreme Court arguments.

Polina Savchenko <>

Russian Supreme Court Upheld Homophobic Politics of St. Petersburg

On October 3, Russia's Supreme Court considered the appeal by LGBT organization "Coming Out", challenging the law on the so-called "gay propaganda" in St. Petersburg.

Human rights activists are convinced that this law is contrary to federal legislation of the Russian Federation, and, because of lack of definition of "propaganda", opens the doors wide for abuse by law enforcement bodies and the judicial system.

The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal, finding the "gay propaganda" law consistent with the legislation of the Russian Federation.

"In today's political conditions, expecting a different decision would be naive," says Ksenia Kirichenko, a lawyer and coordinator of the Legal Assistance program for Coming Out. The highest supreme authorities [in Russia] still approve laws that violate fundamental human rights." 

Recently, Russian Supreme Court dismissed an appeal by the Russian LGBT Network around a similar "propaganda" law in Arkhangelsk. The "statement of reasons" for the decision, however, included an interpretation of the law according to which the propaganda ban does not prohibit "open and public debates about social status of sexual minorities" and does not "limit the right of the child to receive information, including information about homosexuality, conditional to his needs and appropriate to the specifics of his age." Activists can now appeal to the given definition in their advocacy efforts.

St. Petersburg law is different from the Arkhangelsk one in that it bans propaganda of "lesbianism, bisexualism, and transgenderism" in addition to "homosexuality", and includes a definition of "propaganda" given in 2010 by the Russian Constitutional Court. It will be interesting to see how the Supreme Court's definition of "propaganda" will differ from the definition used in the St. Petersburg law.

In one-two weeks the "statement of reasons" of the Court ruling will be published, outlining the reasoning used by the Court in coming to its decision. 

With passing of the "gay propaganda" law, St. Petersburg saw an increase in aggression and violence against LGBT people. Radical-right organizations have already publicly justified violence against LGBT activists by the existence of this law during the attacks on May 17 International Day against Homophobia rally and other public actions.

LGBT organization "Coming Out" will continue to fight against the law of the "gay propaganda", in particular, by legally challenging specific instances of its application up to the European Court of Human Rights.

St. Petersburg LGBT organization Coming Out

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