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Moscow Gays Protest Russia's New Propaganda Ban

  • James Brooke

Policemen break up a fight between a gay rights activist and an anti-gay rights activist (in yellow) during a protest against a proposed new law termed by the lower house of Parliament, as "against advocating the rejection of traditional family values" in central Moscow June 11, 2013.
Moscow’s gays and their supporters rallied Wednesday with rainbow flags -- only 24 hours after Russia’s Parliament passed a law that effectively bans gay-pride parades or speaking publicly in defense of gay rights.

The gays marched amid an anti-Kremlin opposition rally that drew about 10,000 protesters to a Moscow park.

Between the red flags of the communists and the black flags of the anarchists, the gay activists walked bunched together, waving their rainbow flags, but appeared visibly nervous. They eyed the black uniformed police that cut occasionally through the marchers.

Vitaly held a brightly colored gay-rights sign. But he talked with a nervous stutter.

"In any normal country, [there] should not be a law like this, said Vitaly, a 19-year-old computer student. So, it is really negative. It really makes no sense. And my friends, who are mostly not gay, also understand the law is absurd and that something wicked is happening now in our country," said Vitaly.

Critics respond

The day before, about 20 gay activists gathered outside Russia’s Parliament building to protest the vote. Right-wing militants attacked and beat the activists. Then, police made their move - they arrested the gay protesters.

Anna, a 22-year-old linguistics student, talked as her rainbow flag fluttered in the summer breeze.

I know that yesterday people were beaten up, and they were arrested, she said. And I am actually very scared that this is the last opportunity for me to freely come and not be arrested.

At the Duma, the vote was 436 - 0, with one abstention.

Ilya Ponomaryov, was the deputy who abstained. On Wednesday, he marched in the opposition rally among the red flags of the "Left Front, a socialist group.

He said he abstained because the language of the act was vague. He also said he saw the legislation as part of a hard-right turn taken by Russian President Vladimir Putin, who seeks to bolster his support among traditional conservatives.

A 51-year-old English teacher, Alexei Sinodov, was one of thousands of unaffiliated protesters who marched Wednesday. He said the anti-gay law was just the latest in a series of restrictive laws passed since President Putin returned to the Kremlin one year ago.
The same undemocratic law, he said. I have nothing against the gays, the lesbians — they can do whatever they like.

Public-opinion polls indicate large majorities of Russians are hostile to homosexuality. At best, they want it to be kept hidden away from the public.

Anna, the lesbian marcher, says the Kremlin seeks to rally popular support by attacking internal enemies.

"We are easy to kick, so they are kicking us," she said.