A Moscow appeals court on Thursday upheld a lower court ruling that essentially bans citizens from holding Pride parades until the year 2112.
However, this is not the crushing defeat that it would appear, and may in fact set Russian activists on course for a larger victory.
Earlier, Tverskoy district court ruled lawful the decision of the Moscow municipal government to ban public events that can be qualified as gay parades from March 2012 till May 2112.
Nikolay Alekseyev, one of the leaders of the Russian LGBT community and organizer of gay pride events, told reporters that he intended to appeal the decision in the Moscow City Court Presidium, and that if the highest Russian instance also rules against him, to address the European Court of Human Rights.
Alekseyev explained to the reporters that in 2011, the activists found a loophole in Russian legislation and submitted requests for 102 gay pride parades to the Moscow Mayor’s office. According to the activist, all they got in return was a letter with a quote from regulations, although the law obliges the city authorities to either allow or ban the planned event within 15 days.
At the same time, Alekseyev admitted that he and his comrades never hoped to actually receive a license for the parade but simply needed a formal excuse to turn to the European Human Rights Court.
The EHRC has on several occasions noted that Moscow is unlawfully banning Pride parades, under the pretense of public safety, and thus contravening citizens’ freedom of assembly and rights of free speech.
This incident is however something new. Prior to this, Moscow’s authorities had at least maintained a facade of reviewing the climate surrounding the Pride events before issuing a ban. They have now preemptively banned future Pride parades. This allows activists a new opportunity to show, in stark terms, the abuses that are being committed in order to silence Russia’s LGBT population.
This comes at a time when attitudes against homosexuality in Russia seem to have sharpened. With local governments like St Petersburg having passed laws to ban mention of homosexuality in the public square, under the guise of protecting minors, the Russian Duma has vowed to consider a similar, national ban.
Around a dozen people were arrested in Moscow recently when police broke up an unofficial Pride event outside of the City Hall building. While several Pride marchers were arrested, including prominent activist Nikolai Alexeyev, a number of so-called religious activists, who had attempted to break up the parade, some of them with violence, were also detained.