Protesters Hold LGBT Parade Despite Russia’s ’Gay Propaganda’ Law

by Jason St. Amand

National News Editor

Monday May 6, 2013

The controversial "gay propaganda" law and memory of the arrest and detention of 17 gay rights advocates didn't stop about 100 LGBT activists from marching with a pro-gay contingent in the annual May Day parade last week in St. Petersburg, Russia.

As Gay Star News reports, a group of gay rights activists held pro-gay banners and rainbow flags during St. Petersburg's annual May Day parade. According to human rights activist Michael Petrelis, about 100 activists came together with a larger crowd celebrating International Workers' Day and held signs that read, "Repeal the Shameful Homophobic Law! Let's Stop Hate and Discrimination Together!"

Under St. Petersburg's "gay propaganda law" the activists risked arrest and could have faced up to $17,000 in fines for "promoting homosexuality" and "pedophilia" among minors as a result of their participation in the parade.

This controversial law was challenged last October, however, Russia's Supreme Court upheld the law but limited its power. The ruling states the law can only be enforced against direct appeals to minors to engage in homosexually activity, meaning that gay prides and LGBT rights rallies are legal.

Nevertheless, because the law is vaguely worded, activists still fear being punished. During last week's May Day event the group faced some confrontations with authorities who tried to stop them from holding rainbow flags.

Olga Lenkova, gay rights activist with Coming Out, said, "Despite attempts by the police to ban deployment of rainbow flags at the beginning of the march, activists were able to pass along the entire route with rainbow flags and banners with no arrests." The Russian LGBT network released a statement about the event as well and said, "Last year in the May Day procession, anyone who held up a rainbow flag was arrested just for this. Today, the 'rainbow column' marched with flags proudly held high and the feeble requests of the police to 'stop propaganda' were ignored."

Last year, Russian police arrested 17 gay rights activists after participating in a May Day celebration in St. Petersburg under the controversial law.

Gay Star News notes that Igor Kochetkov, director of the Russian LGBT network, addressed the crowd during this year's May Day parade and said, "Friends, this is indeed a victory. We have not won, but the struggle clearly goes in our favor. Not just for LGBT, but for advocates of freedom and democracy across the Russian Federation. Happy 1st of May!"