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Russian Court: Protester Can't Be Prosecuted Under 'Gay Propaganda' Law

By Sunnivie Brydum

A lesbian in Russia who was fined after protesting a local law banning so-called homosexual propaganda cannot be prosecuted under the law because it violates the United Nations' International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a local Russian court ruled Thursday, according to The Moscow Times.

In 2009, Irina Fedotova (pictured) protested a regional law in Ryazan that banned "the promotion of homosexuality among minors" by standing outside local libraries and schools carrying signs that read "Homosexuality Is Normal" and "I Am Proud of My Homosexuality." She was detained and fined 1,500 rubles (roughly $50 US) for violating the local law that the Ryazan legislature passed in 2006. 

Ryazan was one of several Russian jurisdictions that had enacted regional antigay "propaganda bans" years before President Vladimir Putin signed a nationwide ban on "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations" visible to minors this summer. 

Fedotova took that original Russian court ruling to the U.N. Human Rights Committee, which ruled that the local law illegally restricted Fedotova's right to freedom of assembly and protection from discrimination, finding no "rational or objective criteria" for denying these basic rights to LGBT Russians. 

Fedotova took the U.N.'s ruling back to the Ryazan court, which overturned her conviction last Friday, reports the Times.

While some gay activists in Russia heralded the ruling as an important blow to the nationwide ban on so-called gay propaganda, the U.N.'s initial statement noted that according to the Russian constitution, the right to freedom of expression can only be restricted by federal law, not local policy. The antigay laws passed unanimously by the Russian parliament, known as the State Duma, and signed into law by President Putin, apply to the entire country and therefore may not be subject to any legal precedent set by the local ruling in Fedotova's case.

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