City’s Anti-Gay Law to Be Abolished
Published: June 25, 2014 (Issue # 1817)
St. Petersburg’s infamous anti-gay law has been abolished by the St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly in a second reading of amendments during a council session on June 18. The amendments were initiated by the Legislative Assembly’s United Russia deputy Vitaly Milonov, who had originally introduced the law in 2011.
According to Milonov, the local law prohibiting the “promotion of sodomy, lesbianism, bi-sexuality and transgenderism to minors,” became redundant after a similar national law came into force in June 2013. However, Milonov, who chairs the Legislative Assembly’s committee on legislation, said he would now work on amendments to the Russian Criminal Code to criminalize the alleged offense.
Despite domestic and international criticism and protests for being anti-constitutional and violating Russia’s international obligations, the city’s anti-gay law came into effect on Mar. 17, 2012 after passing three readings at the Legislative Assembly and finally signed by St. Petersburg Governor Georgy Poltavchenko.
The more vaguely termed national law, prohibiting the “promotion of non-traditional sexual relations,” was proposed to the State Duma on Mar. 28, 2012, soon after the controversial presidential election that year, which was marked by mass protests, and came into force on June 30, 2013 after being signed by Vladimir Putin, who had returned to the presidency.
In over two years since Milonov’s initiative had become a law, the only person punished by court for alleged gay propaganda has been Moscow-based LGBT activist Nikolai Alexeyev, who was detained outside the city administration during his one-man protest on Apr. 12, 2012. A St. Petersburg court imposed a fine of 5,000 rubles ($145) on Alexeyev for his sign saying “Homosexuality is not a perversion. Hockey on grass and ballet on ice are,” — a quote from the famous Russian and Soviet actress Faina Ranevskaya.
Alexeyev, the organizer of the Moscow Gay Pride Rally who won a lawsuit against Russia at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in 2010 over 164 bans on LGBT rallies issued by the Moscow administration, filed lawsuits against the law with the St. Petersburg Statutory Court for violating the City Charter and the European Convention on Human Rights, specifically Article 10, “ Freedom of expression,” and Article 14, “Prohibition of discrimination.” Russia is a signatory member of the convention.
In a statement on June 18, Alexeyev said that Milonov backed down because he feared expected rulings against the law. “Milonov apparently got scared and decided not to wait for a humiliating verdict of the European Court of Human Rights, where his law will obviously have a fiasco,” he said.
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