Gay Rights Demonstration Turns Violent
Published: January 24, 2013 (Issue # 1743)
MOSCOW ľ Aádemonstration outside theáState Duma onáTuesday ended ináfisticuffs as Orthodox activists clashed with opponents ofáa bill targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual andátransgender people.
Police andáat least one Duma deputy intervened toáhalt theáviolence.
About 30 LGBT activists met atánoon onáGeorgiyevsky Pereulok foráan event they called "Kissing Day" toáprotest aáproposed ban oná"homosexual propaganda." Gay andálesbian couples posed foráphotographs atáthe entrance toáthe Duma building while kissing.
But Orthodox activists showed up atáthe event andátried toábreak it up, throwing eggs andáketchup atáthe couples andáeven attacking them when they started toákiss. Several journalists were also attacked.
Theágay activists were protesting aábill that stipulates fines forápromoting homosexuality among minors. Theábill was introduced ináthe Duma ináMarch byáNovosibirsk regional lawmakers. Discussion ofáthe bill byáthe Duma had been scheduled foráTuesday but was pushed back.
"This bill andáthe Duma that wants toáconsider andápass it is not theáchoice ofásociety, which is tolerant, unlike theádeputies who want toában us fromábeing ordinary people andáequate us with pedophiles," activist Sergei Ilupin said.
Theádebate over gay rights came intoáthe national spotlight last year after St. Petersburg city legislators passed aálaw similar toáthat proposed ináthe Duma. TheáSt. Petersburg statute instituted fines foráthe promotion ofáhomosexual relationships among minors, andáit essentially bans gay pride parades.
Several regions, including Novosibirsk, Ryazan, Arkhangelsk andáKostroma, already have similar laws onáthe books.
Theánationwide proposal has pitted gay activists andáhuman rights groups against conservative forces lobbying foráthe ban. TheáRussian Orthodox Church is one ofáthe measure's most prominent supporters.
"These people are unhealthy, so they must stay quiet andábe treated," said former actress Galina Simonova, who came toáTuesday's event toáshow support foráthe Duma initiative.
Several Duma deputies witnessed theábrawl between activists, andáIlya Ponomaryov ofáA Just Russia tried toábreak up theáfight. Former boxer Nikolai Valuyev, aádeputy with United Russia, stood passively byáand smiled before going inside theábuilding, Itar-Tass reported.
Police did not block theágay activists fromástanding ináfront ofáthe Duma building but stepped ináwhen fighting broke out, arresting atáleast five Orthodox activists byáthe end ofáthe protest.
Theáfighting continued even after gay activists had walked away fromáthe Duma. Several Orthodox activists attacked two gay demonstrators inside theáOkhotny Ryad metro station.
LGBT rallies protesting theábill were held ináseveral other cities Tuesday as well, including St. Petersburg, Voronezh, Arkhangelsk, Tomsk, Syktyvkar andáSamara.
InáArkhangelsk, gay activists gathered onáa city square ináfolk costumes andáproclaimed that "LGBT values don't differ fromáheterosexual values."
OnáMonday, discussion ofáthe bill byáparliamentarians was pushed back toáFriday, theálatest ináa series ofádelays inábringing it toáthe Duma floor.
"Something ináit raises questions," AáJust Russia faction head Sergei Mironov said ináexplaining theápostponement, Interfax reported.
Ahead ofáplanned discussion ofáthe bill last month, LGBT activists held aádemonstration that also ended inábloodshed. Several gay activists were detained byápolice, including Yelena Kostyuchenko, anáorganizer ofáTuesday's event andáa reporter foráopposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta, who spent two days inájail afterward.
"We hope that eventually theábill won't even be considered byáthe Duma," Kostyuchenko said. "But if it is, we'll come again."