Things are staying contentious in St. Petersburg where a new law banning gay “propaganda” has gone into effect and already resulted in arrests — and not just of gays.
A lawyer and St. Petersburg native, Sergey Kondrashov, was arrested by city police Sunday for standing on a street with a sign that read, “A dear family friend is lesbian. My wife and I love and respect her… and her family is just as equal as ours.”
As of last week, the new law made signs like his illegal and punishable by jail time and steep fines. Under the vague wording, any positive mention of homosexuality in public, in the media, or on social networking websites can be branded as illegal gay “propaganda."
Kondrashov’s actions were part of a larger effort movement of “single person pickets” staged in front of Oktobersky Concert Hall. Organizers hope to keep attention on the plight of supporters of LGBT rights in the city and to rally opposition to the national version of the law, which was recently introduced in the Duma, or lower house of the Russian Parliament.
In a letter Kondrashov wrote, “I'm straight, happily married for 16 years. And until last week I would not have been called an activist. But on Sunday in St Petersburg, I was arrested for spreading ‘gay propaganda.’”
This letter and a petition they intend to deliver to second-time President-Elect Vladimir Putin is being circulated by the international LGBT rights group AllOut. In his letter, Kondrashov explains why Putin is the intended recipient of this new petition.
“I'm appealing to the one person whose influence over the political process in Russia could help us annul this unconstitutional law in St. Petersburg, and make sure it isn't rolled out nationwide,” he wrote.
Several other protesters were considered for arrest but police ultimately decided that only Kondrashov’s and Igor Konchetkov’s signs were sufficiently violating the new law. Other signs included quotes from famous Russian composer Tchaikovsky, who himself was gay.