BY NATASHA BARSOTTI - The concerted push to criminalize queers across Russia got another boost when the country's third-largest city, Novosibirsk, became the latest jurisdiction to pass so-called anti-gay propaganda legislation on April 27.
Before Novosobirsk, the cities of Ryazan, Arkangelsk, Kostroma and St Petersburg passed similar legislation that Orthodox Church and political authorities want to see in place federally.
According to The Moscow Times, regional deputy Alexander Ilyushchenko says the law is all about protecting the "majority of people who are not associated with homosexuality," so they don't have to explain to -- yep, you guessed it -- "their children that things like this happen." The law, and others like it, is meant to prevent promotion of public actions aimed at "propaganda of sodomy, lesbianism, bisexuality and transgenderism among minors."
Ilyushchenko says gay pride parades are among the events that the new measure could target for a crackdown. Potential fines for breaching it range from 1,000 ($30) to 3,000 rubles for private citizens, 3,000 to 5,000 for officials and 10,000 to 50,000 for legal bodies, it was reported.
So far the courts have not, for one reason or another, invoked the measures in the cases brought before them.
Bearing placards that read, "Gay -- this is normal," Moscow Pride activists Alexei Kiselyov and Kirill Nepomnyashy, two of the first to be arrested under St Peterburg's new law, were released for lack of sufficient evidence.
More recently, a straight man, Sergey Kondrashov, was cleared of holding up a gay rights banner -- again in St Petersburg -- though he was found guilty of disobeying police orders.
His sign bore the words "A dear family friend is lesbian. My wife and I love and respect her and her family is just as equal as ours."
"I was accused only of disobeying the policeman, but all evidence of the supposed 'propaganda' I was spreading disappeared from the court record," Kondrashov said, according to an allout.org release.
He added, "I will continue to stand for what is right. I was not an activist before, but now I am committed to fighting this 'gay propaganda' law. Supporters of the law claim that it would 'protect children,' but my arrest makes clear the real intention. This law is really about making lesbian, gay, bi and trans (LGBT) people disappear in Russia's second largest city."
"This despicable law could go national -- unless we fight it now," Kondrashov concluded.