Russia's High Court Declares 'Gay Propaganda' Ban Constitutional

By Sunnivie Brydum

Originally published on Advocate.com December 04 2013 2:22 PM ET

Russia's local and nationwide bans on so-called gay propaganda do not violate the national constitution, the country's highest court ruled in October, according to a decision published Tuesday and reported by state-sponsored news agency RIA Novosti

Russia's Constitutional Court determined that national lawmakers had a duty to "take measures to protect children from information, propaganda and campaigns that can harm their health and moral and spiritual development," according to RIA Novosti. The court ruled that the Russian Constitution "obliged the state to protect motherhood, childhood and family," according to RIA, and that the propaganda bans accomplished this goal. 

The high court also dismissed claims that the laws were discriminatory, since they applied equally to LGBT and heterosexual Russians who might disseminate such "propaganda." Ultimately, the court decided that the "exercise of civil rights and freedoms could not be permitted at the cost of other people's rights," according to RIA's report. 

The case before Russia's Constitutional Court was filed by one of the nation's most prominent LGBT activists, Nikolai Alexeyev, alleging that a St. Petersburg ban on "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations" in venues visible to minors violated the Russian Constitution because it was based on prejudice and permitted sexual orientation-based discrimination. Alexeyev was fined 4,000 rubles under the local law for a May 2012 demonstration where he held up a sign featuring a quote from Soviet-era actress Faina Ranevskaya, which read "Homosexuality is not a perversion, unlike grass hockey or ice ballet."

St. Petersburg was one of several local jurisdictions to pass a "gay propaganda" ban before the similar nationwide policy took effect after president Vladimir Putin signed it into law in June. The law imposes fines and possible jail time for any individual, media outlet, organization, or government official found guilty of promoting an LGBT identity in public. 

Since the nationwide ban took effect, LGBT Russians and visitors have been arrested, beaten, and harassed with increasing frequency under the state-sanctioned homophobia. In advance of Russia's hosting the 2014 Winter Olympics in the southern city of Sochi, Putin and numerous Olympic officials have promised that LGBT athletes and spectators will be safe during the Games. The International Olympic Committee has said it is "completely satisfied" with those vague promises from Russian Olympic officials that there will be "no discrimination of any kind."