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How Russia enforces its ban on gay 'propaganda'

Russia Gay Rights
MOSCOW (AP) - When the Sochi Winter Olympics begin Friday, many will be watching to see whether Russia will enforce its law banning gay "propaganda" to minors if athletes, fans or activists wave rainbow flags or speak out in protest.

The message so far has been confusing.

The International Olympics Committee has reminded athletes that "no kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites." Athletes will be free to express their opinions at news conferences, however, according to IOC President Thomas Bach.

Sochi organizers initially took issue with Bach, but then backed off.

President Vladimir Putin has assured gays that they will be welcome in Sochi but only if they "leave the kids alone." Dmitry Kozak, the deputy prime minister overseeing the games, repeated that message Thursday.

The Russian government initially banned all protests during the games. Following an international outcry, it set up a designated protest zone far from any of the Olympic venues.

Across the rest of the country, however, Russian judges have been implementing the law and handing out fines. Here's a look at who has been targeted since the law took effect in July:

ACTIVISTS

In December, Nikolai Alexeyev, Russia's leading gay activist, and Yaroslav Yevtushenko traveled to the far northwestern city of Arkhangelsk, where they picketed outside a children's library bearing banners that read, "Gays aren't made, they're born!" The two were fined 4,000 rubles ($115) and their appeal denied.

Activist Dmitry Isakov protested the law in his hometown of Kazan, 720 kilometers (450 miles) east of Moscow. Months later, he was called to court after a teenager in Arkhangelsk had seen photos of his protest online and filed a complaint. Isakov was fined 4,000 rubles in January and his appeal is still pending.

A JOURNALIST AND A TEACHER

Newspaper editor Alexander Suturin was summoned to court after he published an interview with an openly gay schoolteacher in his weekly paper in Khabarovsk, a city on the Amur River that borders China. Fines are much higher for those accused of spreading propaganda with the help of media or the Internet, so Suturin was fined 50,000 rubles ($1,400) by a Khabarovsk court last week. In the interview, the teacher - who was told his school contract would not be renewed after he came out publicly as gay - defended LGBT rights.

SOCIAL NETWORKING

When journalist Yelena Klimova posted an enraged column about the propaganda law to a news website, she got a reaction she didn't expect: An underage lesbian from provincial Russia reached out to thank her for the column, saying it had helped keep her from committing suicide. Klimova kept up the correspondence with the girl and set up Children-404, an online group hosted by Russia's top social networking website, which allows gay and lesbian teens to post supportive letters to each other.

Now Klimova is facing trial this month in her Urals hometown of Nizhny Tagil, after several complaints were filed by a Russian lawmaker famous for championing anti-gay legislation.

"I didn't expect that it would come into anyone's head to label letters sent from minors as propaganda among minors - it's absurd!" she wrote to The Associated Press.

A SCHOOLGIRL

Shortly after a 14-year-old girl in the small town of Dyatkova, 300 kilometers (200 miles) from Moscow, held a one-person picket to protest the gay propaganda law, the phones at her home and school started ringing. An anti-gay activist from St. Petersburg, Timur Isayev, called the girl's principal and later her mother, demanding that she be homeschooled so she could not spread her ideas to other children.

Maria, who asked that her last name not be used in this article, was disciplined by a government-run commission for the protection of children's rights, which ordered her to make weekly visits and encouraged her to see a psychiatrist.

While under normal circumstances she can't be held legally responsible until age 16, she says the commission threatened to take her to court under the propaganda law if she continued to express her views in public. This week, after her case became a national media sensation, Maria said the commission director quietly promised her that the complaint against her would be dropped.

"But I'm afraid that suddenly I'll get a call and they'll say it was a mistake," she told the AP by phone. "And then everything will start all over again."

STREET PROTESTS

Gay pride parades have been de facto banned for many years in Russia, but since last year city authorities often cite the propaganda law as a reason to forbid any demonstrations. When small groups of demonstrators try to defy the bans, police usually detain them immediately but rarely hold them for long or press charges.

VIGILANTE ACTIVISM

The cases that end up in court are often the result of complaints from anti-gay activists who lobby for the propaganda ban to be more rigorously enforced.

Isakov, the gay activist from Kazan, was fined after Arkhangelsk teenager Erik Fedoseyev wrote to Kazan authorities. According to Isakov, Fedoseyev's complaint said he had been encouraged to act by his father, whose wife had left him for another woman.

The activist who complained about Maria told the AP that he didn't regret intervening in the life of a 14-year-old girl he had never met.

"The girl is sick and she needs to be suspended from school," Isayev said by phone.

Isayev said he's contacted the relatives and school principals of more than a dozen openly gay teens like Maria, but that hers was the only case that went public.

"If we don't do it (enforce the law), things will be bad for this country," he said.

Join the discussion

1000|Char. 1000  Char.
scottee February 06 2014 at 7:38 AM

the same way the US enforces immigration? they don't?

Flag Reply +5 rate up
jguss69 February 06 2014 at 8:51 PM

i dont need to dance in the streets becuase i only prefer woman , gay people are so over excitable and act childish in public

Flag Reply +5 rate up
s2171 February 06 2014 at 4:30 PM

there was an old song of the south thart said the darkies were gay.

Gay you to mean having a happy time ore feeling good.

Flag Reply +1 rate up
sopranosly February 07 2014 at 7:52 PM

when in Rome do what the Romans do ...It was right a 2000 years ago and still right today. I'm not gay and I don't go around telling everyone that I'm not. So if your gay good for you but I don't care or want to know. For being gay I've never know a group thats so unhappy maybe your not gay just Queer ?

Flag Reply +2 rate up
motojay62 February 06 2014 at 1:16 PM

this is a joke .who gives a ****. you dont like russias law stay home , its easy!

Flag Reply +8 rate up
s2171 February 06 2014 at 4:23 PM

gays should keep their sexuality
qyuiet like most heteros

Flag Reply +7 rate up
1 reply
normandyv s2171 February 06 2014 at 4:58 PM

Heteros don't have to.

Flag Reply 0 rate up
robb.1 February 06 2014 at 2:50 PM

Don't agree? Stay home!!!

Flag Reply +5 rate up
1 reply
cessnatx robb.1 February 06 2014 at 4:20 PM

What a laugh....I have no problem with what somone does in private...I only have a problem when perversion is promoted in public....Now if you don't think it's perversion....that's where we differ.....And I do have a right to my opinion....I know you don't think so...but tough luck bud...And also...I have a right to promote what I think in public about perversion....and to call it what it is.....Of course...you'd like laws passed to change that....but we'll figure a way around that if it happens....and if you apply for a job where I work...I'll figure a way to get rid of you without offending you...okay ? Thanks

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2 replies
suzdro54 cessnatx February 06 2014 at 4:36 PM

I keep asking if we are supposed to embrace homosexual's because they were "born that way", does that mean we should embrace pedophilia? Don't they say they can't help it, they were just "born that way"? And I'll bet Jeffrey Dahmer & all the other serial killers would say they couldn't help it, they were just "born that way". Just because a perversion feels good to someone, means it's correct? I want gays to tell me if they think pedophiles should be embraced? What the hell is next for this country?

Flag +4 rate up
normandyv cessnatx February 06 2014 at 5:01 PM

Who's we? Guess "we'll" just have to assume whatever you do in the privacy of your home is "normal." Thanks.

Flag 0 rate up
plewdawg February 06 2014 at 7:46 AM

The Olympic Committee CHOSE SOCHI and now want to dictate politics?! They knew what they were getting when they chose them! Next time pick a nation after BETTER RESEARCH!!

Flag Reply +5 rate up
1 reply
uptometoinform plewdawg February 06 2014 at 8:24 AM

85% of the world, including the Olympic commitee thinks gays should be collected and removed from society. Only the American Olympic commitee causes all these waves. They chose Russia, for a reason. The US pissed them off. Bribes are a way of business. Our jewish business people like to receive bribes, but hate to pay them. Bye Bye olympics.

Flag Reply +10 rate up
5 replies
Tom February 06 2014 at 11:58 AM

I just wonder how the "progressives" explain away the law in Russia. They surely can NOT be called the religious right. I wonder what their answer will be.

Flag Reply +4 rate up
1 reply
cozmcrae Tom February 06 2014 at 1:13 PM

Why are you so sure there is no Religious Right in Russia? Russia is no longer the (officially) atheist and anti-religion Soviet Union, so the Russian Orthodox Church is no longer more-or-less underground and no longer has any government restrictions on it.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
nt.oro February 07 2014 at 7:11 PM

I'm glad to see a country that is strong in their principles and morals. unfortunately America is becoming more and more liberal each day. We need to pay more attention to our children and youth. Something is wrong in our society and its disturbing our future generations.

Flag Reply +4 rate up
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