The European Court of Human Rights on Tuesday criticized a Russian law banning homosexual "propaganda."
The law, which effectively bans most public mentions of homosexuality, was introduced at regional levels in 2003 and 2006 and at the federal level in 2013.
Nikolay Bayev, Aleksey Kiselev, and Nikolay Alekseyev filed a complaint against the law to the European high court. They were found guilty of administrative offenses and fined after staging demonstrations between 2009 and 2012. During the protests, they held banners stating that homosexuality is natural and normal.
On Tuesday, the court ordered Russia to repay the three men the amount of the fines, stating that "by adopting such laws the authorities had reinforced stigma and prejudice and encouraged homophobia, which was incompatible with the values of a democratic society."
The decision was welcomed by gay rights activists across Russia, but Moscow has said it will appeal the decision.
Russia decriminalized homosexuality in 1993, but prejudice and discrimination have remained throughout the country. The EU court's decision echoed rights groups that have said over the past years that Russia's "homosexuality propaganda" laws have encouraged harassment and attacks against gay people.