Police in the Russian city of St. Petersburg arrested two gay rights activists this week, the first such arrests for violating a controversial new law that bans the “promotion of homosexuality” to minors.
The two men, Alexei Kiselyov and Cyril Nepomnyashiy, were protesting Thursday in front of St Petersburg’s Palace of Youth Creativity, a government-run center for art displays and musical performances, and holding signs that read “Homosexuality is normal.”
Photo courtesy GayRussia.eu
In a hearing Friday, the court returned the case to the police, because it “did not meet legal requirements” — St. Petersburg police failed to present the posters used by the activists as evidence.
Kiselyov and Nepomnyashiy could have faced fines equivalent to $170 US each for violating the city ordinance, and possible additional penalties for breaking national law banning demonstrations in a public area without official sanction.
The law, which came into force on March 30, has caused a divided reaction among Russians. Any person who violates the law by disseminating “gay propaganda” to minors can be fined in St. Petersburg for an administrative offense, according to the state news agency RIA Novosti.
Two other gay rights activists were detained by police on Saturday for picketing against the law, but were released after police compiled a report of the offense.
Supporters of the ordinance say the law is necessary in order to promote traditional Russian values.
St. Petersburg is one of four regions in Russia to impose fines for the dissemination of “gay propaganda” — the others are the Ryazan, Arkhangelsk and Kostroma regions.
Last month, Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party introduced a bill in the country’s parliament, the Duma, which would impose the ban at the national level.