Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov lived up to his promise to continue banning gay pride parades on Thursday, turning down for the fifth year in a row an application by organizers of the annual Moscow Pride parades to hold their next event.
Nikolai Alexeyev, founder of the Gayrussia.ru rights project and one of the event’s organizers, told Interfax on that he was told over the phone by the mayor’s office that the application for Moscow Pride had been turned down. Parades, protests, rallies, and other similar events require government sanction to be legally held in Russia; organizing an unsanctioned rally can lead to jail time.
The city did not appear to attempt to hide its flagrant violation of Russian law in banning Moscow Pride. “Contrary to the demands of acting legislation, the Moscow government did not propose any kind of alternative [locations] for holding the planned event to organizers of the march,” reads a statement on Gayrussia.ru.
Alexeyev said that he and his fellow organizers intend to file a complaint about the city’s decision with the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. More immediately, he said they would appeal the decision in Moscow’s Tverskoy Court after receiving written confirmation that the parade has been banned.
“We’re going to try to get the case considered by the court before the date of the event – May 29,” Alexeyev said.
The Strasbourg Court is set to rule this year on three cases filed by Moscow Pride organizers against the city for banning their parades in 2006, 2007, and 2008. Their event was also prohibited in 2009, but 30 participants attempted to march in defiance of the ban. Five minutes after the beginning of the march, all 30 activists were arrested by OMON riot police.
Earlier, Alexeyev stated that if the Moscow city authorities refuse to sanction this year’s Moscow Pride parade, they would try to gain permission to hold it on the territory of an embassy of a Western country.
Moscow Mayor Luzhkov is famous for his vocal homophobia, routinely denouncing gay pride parades a “satanic activity.” In January, he vowed to ban what he called “the display of blasphemy under the guise of creativity and protected by the principle of freedom of speech” in Moscow on a permanent basis.
Russian gay rights advocates have suffered from strong public and governmental opposition dating back to Soviet times. In accordance with a Stalinist decree, homosexuality carried a sentence of up to five years in prison until 1993, when legislators legalized it at the urging of the Council of Europe. It remained on the list of Russian mental illnesses until 1999. While there are no laws explicitly banning homosexuality, government authorities have failed to recognize the need for anti-discrimination legislation. Public opinion remains strongly opposed to such reforms – as of 2005, 43.5 percent of Russians supported the re-criminalization of adult homosexual acts.