Russian prosecutors have prepared the first case against a publication under the country’s law on promotion of gay propaganda. In September, a youth-oriented newspaper in Khabarovsk interviewed a teacher who had been fired over his sexual orientation. Geography teacher Alexander Yermoshkin was quoted as saying: ‘My very existence is proof being gay is normal’, prompting complaints to the agency that supervises media conformance with law.
A spokesperson for the agency said that the article ‘violated a law forbidding distribution to minors of material supporting non-traditional sexual relationships.’
Individuals found guilty of violating the ‘gay propaganda’ law can be fined up to 100,000 Roubles (£1,900). The paper can be fined even more heavily, up to 1 million roubles (£19,000) and be closed for 90 days.
Although this is seen as the first case brought against an organisation, there have been a number of such incidents involving individuals. In 2009, two activists, Nikolai Baev and Irina (Fet) Fedotova, were convicted of violating a local ‘propaganda’ law for holding a sign reading Homosexuality Is Normal and I Am Proud of My Homosexuality outside a school.
Although homosexuality in itself is not illegal, a law was passed in the summer that levies a fine on any individual engaged in ‘propaganda of non traditional relationships to minors’. Non-traditional relationships in this case were defined by the lawmakers as those that cannot lead to the production of offspring. What constitutes propaganda in seems to have been left intentionally ambiguous.
A survey conducted in May found that almost half of all Russians believe that it comes as a result of ‘being subjected to perversion or loose personal morals’.
The first fine brought against an individual was against Nikolai Alexeyev, one of Russia’s most prominent LGBT activists and the head of Gay Russia for holding a sign in front of city hall reading ‘Homosexuality is not a perversion. A perversion is hockey on the grass and ballet on the ice’.
Another activist from Kazan, meanwhile, was recently charged for holding a sign that said ‘Being gay and loving gays is normal. Beating gays and killing gays is a crime’.