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European Court Rules Against Russia’s Gay Rally Bans

Rulings says blocking LGBTQ events “not necessary” in democratic society

LGBTQ activists march at a rally in St. Petersburg, Russia on May 1, 2017.
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Russia’s courts violated freedom of assembly rights of citizens when they rejected applications to hold gay rallies, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled on November 27.

Applicants in the case also charged that Russian authorities “treated them in a discriminatory manner” when they applied to hold the events.

The events that were rejected, described in detail by the ECHR, ranged from expressions of support for gay singer Elton John to rallies calling for the recognition of same-sex marriages. Another rally would have called for the opening of an LGBTQ public community center in Moscow.

According to the ECHR, local authorities initially rejected all applications, which were submitted between 2009 and 2014. The applicants were then unsuccessful in their attempts to challenge the decisions in domestic courts.

The applicants charged that the Russian government violated articles 11, 13, and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights — that “everyone has a right to freedom of peaceful assembly” without “discrimina­tion on any ground” and that those whose rights are violated “shall have an effective remedy before a national authority.”

The court determined that the “ban on holding LGBT public assemblies imposed by the domestic authorities did not correspond to a pressing social need and thus was not necessary in a democratic society.”

Judge Helen Keller called on Russia to “adopt the appropriate ... measures to secure the right of freedom of assembly and protect the persons under its jurisdiction against discrimination, as required by Article 46 of the Convention.”

While the ECHR ruled in favor of the applicants, it rejected requests for compensation, which ranged from $5,600 to $566,000.

LGBTQ rights in Russia have been under fire due to the nation’s law banning gay “propaganda,” which primarily restricts the exposure of LGBTQ-related material to minors but has also been stretched to squash broader LGBTQ rights and expression.

In Chechnya, a region in western Russia, officials have been known to kidnap, torture, and kill people suspected of being gay, while also going to great lengths to encourage their family members to kill their gay relatives.

Updated 11:42 am, November 30, 2018
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