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Gay Rights Demonstration Turns Violent

Published: January 24, 2013 (Issue # 1743)



  • Protesters at the gay rights rally.
    Photo: Igor Tabakov / MT

MOSCOW Ademonstration outside theState Duma onTuesday ended infisticuffs as Orthodox activists clashed with opponents ofa bill targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual andtransgender people.

Police andat least one Duma deputy intervened tohalt theviolence.

About 30 LGBT activists met atnoon onGeorgiyevsky Pereulok foran event they called "Kissing Day" toprotest aproposed ban on"homosexual propaganda." Gay andlesbian couples posed forphotographs atthe entrance tothe Duma building while kissing.

But Orthodox activists showed up atthe event andtried tobreak it up, throwing eggs andketchup atthe couples andeven attacking them when they started tokiss. Several journalists were also attacked.

Thegay activists were protesting abill that stipulates fines forpromoting homosexuality among minors. Thebill was introduced inthe Duma inMarch byNovosibirsk regional lawmakers. Discussion ofthe bill bythe Duma had been scheduled forTuesday but was pushed back.

"This bill andthe Duma that wants toconsider andpass it is not thechoice ofsociety, which is tolerant, unlike thedeputies who want toban us frombeing ordinary people andequate us with pedophiles," activist Sergei Ilupin said.

Thedebate over gay rights came intothe national spotlight last year after St. Petersburg city legislators passed alaw similar tothat proposed inthe Duma. TheSt. Petersburg statute instituted fines forthe promotion ofhomosexual relationships among minors, andit essentially bans gay pride parades.

Several regions, including Novosibirsk, Ryazan, Arkhangelsk andKostroma, already have similar laws onthe books.

Thenationwide proposal has pitted gay activists andhuman rights groups against conservative forces lobbying forthe ban. TheRussian Orthodox Church is one ofthe measure's most prominent supporters.

"These people are unhealthy, so they must stay quiet andbe treated," said former actress Galina Simonova, who came toTuesday's event toshow support forthe Duma initiative.

Several Duma deputies witnessed thebrawl between activists, andIlya Ponomaryov ofA Just Russia tried tobreak up thefight. Former boxer Nikolai Valuyev, adeputy with United Russia, stood passively byand smiled before going inside thebuilding, Itar-Tass reported.

Police did not block thegay activists fromstanding infront ofthe Duma building but stepped inwhen fighting broke out, arresting atleast five Orthodox activists bythe end ofthe protest.

Thefighting continued even after gay activists had walked away fromthe Duma. Several Orthodox activists attacked two gay demonstrators inside theOkhotny Ryad metro station.

LGBT rallies protesting thebill were held inseveral other cities Tuesday as well, including St. Petersburg, Voronezh, Arkhangelsk, Tomsk, Syktyvkar andSamara.

InArkhangelsk, gay activists gathered ona city square infolk costumes andproclaimed that "LGBT values don't differ fromheterosexual values."

OnMonday, discussion ofthe bill byparliamentarians was pushed back toFriday, thelatest ina series ofdelays inbringing it tothe Duma floor.

"Something init raises questions," AJust Russia faction head Sergei Mironov said inexplaining thepostponement, Interfax reported.

Ahead ofplanned discussion ofthe bill last month, LGBT activists held ademonstration that also ended inbloodshed. Several gay activists were detained bypolice, including Yelena Kostyuchenko, anorganizer ofTuesday's event anda reporter foropposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta, who spent two days injail afterward.

"We hope that eventually thebill won't even be considered bythe Duma," Kostyuchenko said. "But if it is, we'll come again."





 


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