Despite the threat of imprisonment as vowed by Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, Russia’s gays are planning on holding their gay pride parade on Saturday to coincide with the global phenomenon Eurovision Song Contest, intimidation be damned. Luzhkov once again refused to grant a permit to organizers Nikolay Bayev and Irina Fet, who were arrested already for “popularizing homosexuality among minors” after they held a public demonstration. And the courts sided with the mayor. But the show must go on.

In a country where esteemed officials declare the United States will crumble within the next two years because of all our gays, it’s no surprise anti-gay voices are popular and accepted. While the gays try for their parade, opponents are ramping up their own effort. Spiegel: “Around a dozen people have gathered in the afternoon on Moscow’s Pushkin Square: men and women aged between 30 and 50, well-groomed middle class Russians. But they are here to preach hate against those who are different. “Moscow is not Sodom,” reads one banner. ‘Sign the petition against the freaks’ parade.’ … The protesters’ flyer shows garishly made-up transvestites juxtaposed with an image from the Beslan school hostage crisis. … ‘Homosexuality is the same as terrorism,’ asserts one of the Pushkin Square activists. He and his colleagues call themselves the Orthodox Front. They tell interested passersby that the gay parade is a provocation against the government and promotes homosexuality. Many people are happy to sign the petition.” (Pictured, below)


Is this par for the course?

Violence and discrimination are part of everyday life for homosexuals in Russia. Gay clubs are regularly attacked by hooligans, while openly gay people are excluded from events or ejected from polling stations. Participants in previous gay parades have been fired from their jobs, without notice and without any explanation, after their employers recognized them on television. At the beginning of October 2008, authorities in St. Petersburg sabotaged a cultural anf film festival which had been organized by gays and lesbians. When the event was about to begin, militia and firefighters moved in and closed the venues, supposedly because of potential fire hazards.

Theoretically, the Russian constitution prohibits such discrimination. Theoretically, Russia, as a member of the Council of Europe, has to guarantee the freedom of expression and assembly. But the reality is very different. Dubious groups like the Orthodox Front are free to promote hate in public, but gays and lesbians have to hide.

[…] According to a survey last year by the independent public opinion research institute Levada Center, 80 percent of Russians consider homosexuality to be immoral. A Moscow radio station reached a similar conclusion a few days ago: Four out of five callers felt that the city administration had the right to ban a gay demo, announced a presenter cheerfully before playing back calls. “We are an orthodox country,” said one woman. “Why don’t they go to Amsterdam?” another asked. A third caller said that actually he had nothing against gays, but was it strictly necessarily for them to show their sexuality in public?

Homosexuality was taboo during the Soviet era, and has remained so in almost all countries of the former USSR. Same-sex relations were against the law in Russia up until 1993. Since 2002 a group of parliamentarians has been fighting to get homosexuality criminalized once again.

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