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© RIA Novosti. Andrei Aleksandrov

Russian gays win right to show their pride

by at 21/10/2010 17:03


Moscow’s gay pride marches cannot be banned, and the city acted illegally in stopping them, the European Court of Human Rights has found.

City Hall was ordered to pay 12,000 euros in damages to Nikolai Alexeyev and a further 17,500 euros in costs.

And gay rights activists believe the ruling opens the way for all groups to rally in public, regardless of their political or social background.

“This is the first ever decision of the European Court of Human Rights which concerns freedom of assembly in Russia. It guarantees everyone freedom of expression without special permission,” Alexeyev told The Moscow News directly after the verdict.

The Moscow city government lost each of the three complaints, which activists said had great significance for the future beyond the gay rights movement. 


First day of the future

On the day that notoriously homophobic Moscow mayor Yury Luzhkov was officially replaced with Sergei Sobyanin, the landmark ruling thrilled gay rights activists.

“This is our day of victory, our festival,” Yevgeniya Debryanskaya told journalists at a press conference after the verdict was given. “We reached this ruling ourselves with help from no-one. It all became real today,” added Slavic Pride organiser Nikolai Bayev.

Oct. 21 will become a landmark date of greater significance than the legislation of homosexuality, the panel of speakers said. “This is the day of liberalisation of LGBTs in Russia,” a beaming Alexeyev proclaimed as he cut a celebratory cake.

The movement has come a long way since its inception 20 years ago, Debryanskaya said, but there is still progress to make. The first legal Gay Pride in Moscow is unlikely to attract the grinning thousands that throng the streets of London and New York for gay marches, and Alexeyev predicted a couple of hundred at most to start with, “as in the Baltic states.” 

“Our country now needs anti-discrimination laws. But now we have a new mayor, who is not as homophobic as [former mayor Yury] Luzhkov. Now we have a steady legal basis,” said Bayev.


Ball in their court

Alexeyev, who works as a lawyer, said that the Strasbourg ruling put the onus on the authorities to get a court ruling stopping public demonstrations and meetings.

Previously it was the organisers who had to win official backing before they could proceed without fear of prosecution.

And any court ruling must be secured before the event is scheduled, St. Petersburg Slavic Pride lawyer Dmitry Bartenev added. That ensures there can be no repeat of the situation in Petersburg where a court lifted ban on a pride march after it had taken place.


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