While he is not the first person to be charged under Russia's draconian law criminalizing the free expression of gays and lesbians, LGBTQ activist Dmitry Isakov may be the first to be convicted under the so-called "gay propaganda" ban.
As BuzzFeed reports, Isakov was charged with violating the ban because of a one-man protest he staged in the city of Kazan, where he stood holding a sign that read, “Being gay and loving gays is normal. Beating gays and killing gays is a crime!”
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Police filed the charges on the basis of a complaint from a teenager in the northern Arkhangelskaya province who had seen Isakov’s protest online. The teenager, Erik Fedoseyev, wrote that he had been forced to write the complaint by his father, who hates LGBT people because his ex-wife, Fedoseyev’s mother, had left the family to live with another woman when he was four. Intolerance and incomprehension lead many LGBT Russians to hide their orientation and start straight families.
The charges are only the latest consequence Isakov has faced for his protest. He told London's the Times that four policemen beat him so badly after he left the protest that he had to walk on crutches for 10 days. When his injured knee allowed him to return to work at a local branch of Sberbank, the former Soviet banking behemoth, he learned that he had been abruptly fired. Sberbank said that the woman he was providing long-term maternity cover for had cut her three-year leave early and that the protest was not a factor in his dismissal.
If convicted, Isakov faces a fine of up to 5,000 rubbles and may face jail time if he staged any future protests.
In related news, United States Pastor Scott Lively, president of Abiding Truth Ministries, wrote Russian President Vladimir Putin a letter thanking him for denying gays and lesbians their basic rights. “On behalf of millions of Americans and Canadians who are concerned about the seemingly unstoppable spread of homosexuality in our countries and internationally, I wish to respectfully express my heartfelt gratitude that your nation has take a firm and unequivocal stand against this scourge by banning homosexualist propaganda in Russia,” Lively wrote in an open letter posted to his website on August 30.
Lively wagers that the anti-gay ban could serve as a unifier for Russia and the United States, explaining that, "Perhaps through the inspiration of your leadership, an alliance of the good people of our countries with those of your own, can once again in some cooperative fashion, redeem the future of mankind from a Fascist Leviathan, just as we did in World War II."