Lesbian LGBT Equality Rights Activist Wins Court Appeal
By Mark Singer | RYAZAN, Russia -- A ruling by the Ryazan Oblast court last week, that overturned an administrative charge against an Lesbian activist under a regional "gay propaganda" law, has been lauded by Russian LGBT activists as a sign that the federal law will eventually be overturned.
Irina Fedotova and fellow gay rights activist Nikolai Bayev were protesting the regional law passed in 2006 by the Ryazan legislature, banning "the promotion of homosexuality among minors," when they were arrested and cited in 2009.
According to court documents, Fedotova and Bayev were standing near schools and libraries in the city of Ryazan, about 325 kilometers southeast of Moscow, holding posters reading "Homosexuality is normal" and "I am proud of my homosexuality." They were subsequently convicted and each given a 1,500-ruble fine.[About $50USD]
The legal case against the pair was the first prosecution of this type of regional law regarding a ban on "gay propaganda."
In 2010, Fedotova submitted a formal legal complaint to the United Nations Human Rights Committee, [Fedotova v. Russian Federation] alleging that the Administrative penalty by the Ryazan government violated her right to freedom of expression and protection from discrimination, which is protected under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, of which, the Russian federation is among the 74 signatories nations to the covenant.
Bayev took his case to the European Court of Human Rights also in 2010, where his legal case is still pending.
In its final ruling earlier this year, the UN committee ruled that the Russian court "was unable to prove that the restriction of the right to freedom of expression in regards to 'gay propaganda,' as opposed to propaganda of heterosexuality or sexuality in general, among minors was based on rational or objective criteria." It added, "Furthermore, no evidence was presented that would indicate the existence of factors justifying such a distinction."
In August Fedotova submitted the UN ruling to the Ryazan Oblast court on appeal which the court agreed with and then overturned the lower judicial body's decision.
Innokenty 'Kes' Grekov, the Russian coordinator for New York based Human Rights First, told LGBTQ Nation Wednesday that although the decision by the Ryazan Oblast court was a critical first step in challenging the national law passed last June, the problem remains that so far there have been no known application of that law by Russian law enforcement or prosecutors.
Grekov also noted that the ruling raises questions about how the national law will be applied, including what constitutes "promotion" of a homosexual lifestyle among minors and whether enforcement will differ on regional and federal levels.
Grekov said that it was also important that the ruling in Fedotova's favor came from application of the regional versus federal laws which the UN committee had pointed out in its decision, that "freedom of expression can be restricted only by federal law" according to the Russian Constitution.