LGBT rights activist Nikolai Alexeyev has become the first person to be convicted under St Petersburg’s gay propaganda band.
Nikolai Alexeyev told the Associated Press that a city court in St. Petersburg fined him 5,000 rubles ($170) for breaching the law, which was controversially introduced by lawmakers in Russia’s second-largest city in February. He pledged to appeal the decision.
He said the judge has not presented the grounds for her decision, and that they will only be available next week. Calls to the court went unanswered shortly after the ruling.
The law was approved in February and came into force in March. As noted above, this is the first time a citizen has been charged under the ban’s provisions.
A judge late last month however declined to invoke the penalty, specifically saying that the ban on “homosexual propaganda” was so broad and ill-defined it lacked a sufficient legal framework to make it enforceable.
Alexeyev, a former journalist, turned to LGBT rights promotion in 2005 and subsequently founded the gay rights advocacy group GayRussia. He has been a vocal opponent of the ban, saying that its wide ranging nature speaks to a larger climate of oppression Russia is currently suffering under.
The propaganda ban is of course purposefully broad though. It is designed to prevent open advocacy of LGBT identity in the public sphere, this under the guise of protecting children. Critics have pointed out that this would serve to ban gay pride events outright, in direct opposition to European mandates of freedom of speech and assembly.
Seventeen Russian protesters were arrested during a May Day march this week with police charging them under St Petersburg’s ban on homosexual propaganda and with failure to comply with police orders, all because they were trying to fly rainbow flags.
The Ryazan, Kostroma and Arkhangelsk regions have also banned so-called LGBT propaganda and there is now a push to enact a federal ban.
It recently emerged that the propaganda ban is likely to have been inspired by a visiting US evangelical.