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Straight Protester of St. Petersburg’s “Propaganda” Law Heads to Court

Straight Protester of St. Petersburg’s “Propaganda” Law Heads to Court


The man arrested in Russia for holding a sign supporting equality for his lesbian friend said he felt "a moral obligation to her" to stand up.

After a hearing in a Russian court today, Sergey Kondrashov spoke during a press conference about his arrest in St. Petersburg for violating the city's new law banning so-called gay propaganda. Both Kondrashov, who is straight, and Igor Konchetkov, who is gay, were detained by police for five hours April 7 for picketing outside St. Petersburg's Oktyobersky Theater with signs promoting LGBT acceptance.

Kondrashov's sign read, "A dear family friend is lesbian. My wife and I love and respect her ... and her family is just as equal as ours."

He says much of the time they spent detained was due to confusion about how to define the nature of the new offense. Kondrashov noted that today's judge openly discussed the difficulty of making a legal decision on a law that is so vaguely written.

Today was the second court hearing on the alleged violation, and Kondrashov recounted what happened during a press conference organized by the LGBT rights organization AllOut. One of the two arresting officers testified before the judge. The other was unable to attend because of surgery. After the officer's testimony, the judge postponed any further legal proceedings until April 23 because documents detailing the indictment were missing.

Kondrashov, himself a lawyer, speculated about delays in the trial and its outcome. With the way things work in the Russian political system, he expects prosecutors won't drop the case and will instead drag things out while waiting for instructions about how to proceed from the Prosecutor General or the State Duma.

When asked why, as a heterosexual, Kondrashov decided to protest the law, he gave two important reasons.

"The first is that a friend of mine is a lesbian and I felt that I had a moral obligation to her," he said. "The second is that the law violates my rights that were guaranteed by the Constitution of the Russian Federation."

Kondrashov said that, as a heterosexual, he felt all the more obligated to stand up against the new law.

While these are the first arrests in St. Petersburg, others have been made under a similar law enacted earlier in Kostrama. But no decision has been issued in those cases. The situation for Kondrashov and Konchetkov is different, though, because of the intense media and community interest. And that led Kondrashov to speculate optimistically on the fate of the federal version of the law now being considered in the Duma. That law will remain on the agenda for a few years, he hopes, before ultimately being dropped without a vote.

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Brett Edward Stout