Russian Court’s Anti-Gay Ruling Could Threaten Elton John’s Concert Plans

Posted December 7th, 2013 at 8:53 am (UTC+0)
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Musician Elton John speaks during the question and answer period with students after performing songs off his new album "The Diving Board" at the USC Thornton School of Music in Los Angeles, California September 16, 2013.

Musician Elton John speaks during the question and answer period with students after performing songs off his new album “The Diving Board” at the USC Thornton School of Music in Los Angeles, California September 16, 2013.

Sir Elton John is reconsidering an upcoming performance in Russia, says Britain’s Independent, because of a controversial new law that bans “gay propaganda.”  A  ruling by Russia’s highest court that was revealed this week may help him make up his mind:  The Constitutional Court has ruled that the “propaganda” is not a breach of the constitution.

The  Court also dismissed a complaint from Nikolai Alexeyev, founder of the Moscow Gay Pride Movement, that the St. Petersburg city council had acted unconstitutionally by passing a law banning the “promotion of homosexuality among minors.”  Alexeyev had asked the court to rule that the law was unconstitutional because it discriminated against people based on their sexual orientation.

Not only did Alexeyev lose his case–but as the Moscow Times reports, in a separate court case in the northern city of Arkhangelsk, Alexeyev and a fellow activist  became the first Russians to be convicted and fined under the new law. It seems that Alexeyev and  fellow activist Yevtushenko tempted fate by picketing in front of a children’s library in the northern city of Arkhangelsk on Monday. They carried signs reading: “Gay propaganda does not exist. People do not become gay, people are born gay.”

Alexey Kiselev protesting next to Children's Library in Arkhangelsk. Photo GayRussia.Ru

Alexey Kiselev protesting next to Children’s Library in Arkhangelsk. Photo GayRussia.Ru

The Arkhangelsk court Tuesday found them both guilty of promoting “non-traditional sexual relations” to minors and fined each of them 4,000 rubles ($120).

As for Sir Elton, he’s scheduled to give concerts in Moscow December 6 and Kazan December 7.  He has said previously that he wants to go, as an expression of solidarity with Russian LGBTs.  He told London’s Guardian newspaper in September, “There’s two avenues of thought: Do you stop everyone going, ban all the artists coming in from Russia?  But then you’re really leaving the men and women who are gay and suffering under the anti-gay laws in an isolated situation. As a gay man, I can’t leave those people on their own without going over there and supporting them. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I’ve got to go.”

The PolicyMic website explains that the new law defines “propaganda” as the act of distributing information among minors that 1) is aimed at the creating nontraditional sexual attitudes, 2) makes nontraditional sexual relations attractive, 3) equates the social value of traditional and nontraditional sexual relations, or 4) creates an interest in nontraditional sexual relations.

And it isn’t just Russians who can be prosecuted under the new law.

Foreign citizens or stateless persons engaging in propaganda are subject to a fine of 4,000 to 5,000 rubles, or they can be deported from the Russian Federation and/or serve 15 days in jail. If a foreigner uses the media or the internet to engage in propaganda, the fines increase to 50,000-100,000 rubles or a 15-day detention with subsequent deportation from Russia. -Article 6.21 of the Code of the Russian Federation on Administrative Offenses

The Independent notes that earlier this year, a committee of concerned Russian parents called on President Vladimir Putin to cancel the Elton John concerts, worried that the openly gay singer might violate the “gay propaganda” ban just by appearing.  “The singer intends to come out in support of local sodomites and break the current Russian law, directed at protecting children,” the parents complained.

Human Rights Watch says the law is discriminatory because it degrades LGBT people.  And the rights group says it also violates the right to freedom of expression, the right to respect for the personal, private, and family lives of individuals, the right to equality, and the ban on discrimination in the enjoyment of those rights.

Cecily Hilleary
Cecily began her reporting career in the 1990s, covering US Middle East policy for an English-language network in the UAE. She has lived and/or worked in the Middle East, North Africa and Gulf, consulting and producing for several regional radio and television networks and production houses, including MBC, Al-Arabiya, the former Emirates Media Incorporated and Al-Ikhbaria. She brings to VOA a keen understanding of global social, cultural and political issues.

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About rePRESSEDed

VOA reporter Cecily Hilleary monitors the state of free expression and free speech around the world.



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