A Russian appellate court on Wednesday dismissed a lower court’s ruling that fined the director of a St. Petersburg LGBT advocacy group more than $15,000 under the country’s “foreign agent” law.
Coming Out said on its website the judge in St. Petersburg found the lower court had relied solely on the prosecutor’s charge as opposed to independently establishing whether the organization had violated the 2012 statute that requires groups that receive funding from outside Russia to register as a “foreign agent.” The appellate court also said the deadline to impose the fine against the head of Coming Out had already passed.
Kseniya Kirichenko of Coming Out applauded the ruling in a statement, while acknowledging prosecutors could potentially appeal it.
“We welcome the fact that there are still judges able to impartially and objectively examine a case against such an ‘unpopular’ organization as an LGBT rights organization,” Kirichenko said. “We continue to keep our finger on the pulse, because the prosecution can still protest the judgment.”
The ruling comes against mounting outrage over Russia’s gay crackdown and increased anti-LGBT discrimination and violence in the country
Russian President Vladimir Putin in June signed a broadly-worded law that bans gay propaganda to minors. A second statute that bans same-sex couples and anyone from a country in which gays and lesbians can legally tie the knot from adopting Russian children took effect last month.
Police in May arrested 30 LGBT rights advocates who tried to stage a Pride celebration outside Moscow City Hall. Police in St. Petersburg took dozens of activists into custody in June as they tried to hold their own event in support of LGBT rights.
Authorities in Murmansk last month arrested four Dutch LGBT rights advocates who were in the city filming a documentary about gay life in Russia.
Playwright Harvey Fierstein is among those who have called for the U.S. to boycott the 2014 Winter Olympics that will take place in Sochi, Russia, in February over Russia’s gay rights record. Andy Cohen told E! News on Wednesday he declined an invitation to co-host the 2013 Miss Universe pageant that will take place in Moscow in November because “he didn’t feel right as a gay man stepping foot into” the country.
President Obama told Jay Leno during an appearance on “The Tonight Show” last week that he has “no patience” for countries with anti-LGBT laws. The White House, along with retired tennis champion Martina Navratilova and a coalition of LGBT advocacy groups that include Athlete Ally are among those who have said they do not support calls to boycott the Sochi games.
Polina Andrianova of Coming Out told the Washington Blade during an interview on August 9 she feels the “foreign agent” law and the ongoing gay crackdown is an attempt to “shut down any kind of possibility for LGBT advocacy.”
“These laws are aimed at driving LGBT people back into silence, back underground, back to the invisibility,” she said. “That’s the whole point of them.”