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St. Petersburg, Russia, Passes Homophobic Bill

by Jason St. Amand
National News Editor
Tuesday Nov 22, 2011
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St. Petersburg is now the second city in Russia to pass a law that would ban "gay propaganda." The legislation will ban literature that promotes "sodomy, lesbianism, bisexualism, and transgenderism, and pedophilia to minors," reported the LGBT Asylum News.

A number of Russian LGBT activists have protested in St. Petersburg saying that the law would threaten their freedom of expression and promote discrimination in the LGBT community. Many signs read: "I am gay, a human, not propaganda. Milonov [the law’s legislative proponent], do not be afraid!" and "I am a lesbian - do not be afraid of me, Babich!"

Arkhangelsk and Ryazan, two of the country’s regions, have passed the same law. The Russian courts found the legislation to be constitutional even though free speech would be extremely restrained.

"So what is the real goal?" asked Polina Savchenko, the general manager of LGBT organization Coming Out, Russia. "It is clear that adoption of this law would impose significant limitations on the activities of LGBT organizations. Organizers of public events cannot restrict access of minors to any open area; people under 18 can be there just by chance. Consequently, it makes any public campaigns aimed at reducing xenophobia and hate crime prevention impossible."

Other countries have passed a similar law, such as Lithuania. Even though the country has passed anti-discrimination laws for the LGBT community, there have been initiatives that limit the community’s rights to public expression. The Law on the Protection of Minors bans the "promotion of homosexual relations" and is allegedly aimed at reducing the rights of the LGBT community. Since the law has been in effect, there has only been one case where it has been applied in public, which was when authorities tried to ban gay pride in 2010.

Although LGBT rights in Russia have been an uphill battle, the country has made progress in the past 20 years. In 2008, Russia allowed gay men to donate blood and since 1997, transgender people have been allowed to change legally their gender after having the appropriate surgery. In 1999, homosexuality was officially removed from the Russian list of mental illnesses. Same-sex marriage, however, is still not legal.

In October, EDGE reported that Russian police detained forty anti-gay protesters and gay rights activists during a gay pride rally in Moscow. The event was one of the few gay rights rallies that were allowed by authorities. Gay rights activists have tried to hold gay pride marches in the city and other locations in Russia but have been blocked by police, Russian Orthodox Church activists and soccer fans.

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