First Russians are fined or jailed over rainbow-colored items after LGBTQ ‘movement’ is outlawed

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TALLINN, Estonia — The first publicly known cases have emerged of Russian authorities penalizing people under a court ruling that outlawed LGBTQ activism as extremism, Russian media and rights groups have reported, with at least three people who displayed rainbow-colored items receiving jail time or fines.

The Supreme Court ruling in November banned what the government called the LGBTQ “movement” operating in Russia and labeled it as an extremist organization. The ruling was part of a crackdown on LGBTQ people in the increasingly conservative country where “traditional family values” have become a cornerstone of President Vladimir Putin’s 24-year rule.

Russian laws prohibit public displays of symbols of extremist organizations, and LGBTQ rights advocates have warned that those displaying rainbow-colored flags or other items might be targeted by the authorities.

On Monday, a court in Saratov, a city 453 miles southeast of Moscow, handed a 1,500-ruble (roughly $16) fine to artist and photographer Inna Mosina over several Instagram posts depicting rainbow flags, Russia’s independent news site Mediazona reported. The case contained the full text of the Supreme Court ruling, which named a rainbow flag the “international” symbol of the LGBTQ “movement.”

Mosina and her defense team maintained her innocence, according to the reports. Mosina said the posts were published before the ruling, at a time when rainbow flags were not regarded by authorities as extremist, and her lawyer argued that a police report about her alleged wrongdoing was filed before the ruling took force. The court ordered her to pay the fine nonetheless.

Last week, a court in Nizhny Novgorod, some 248 miles east of Moscow, ordered Anastasia Yershova to serve five days in jail on the same charge for wearing rainbow-colored earrings in public, Mediazona reported. In Volgograd, 559 miles south of Moscow, a court fined a man 1,000 rubles (about $11) for allegedly posting a rainbow flag on social media, local court officials reported Thursday, identifying the man only as Artyom P.

The crackdown on LGBTQ rights in Putin’s Russia has persisted for more than a decade.

In 2013, the Kremlin adopted the first legislation restricting LGBTQ rights, known as the “gay propaganda” law, banning any public endorsement of “nontraditional sexual relations” among minors. In 2020, constitutional reforms pushed through by Putin to extend his rule by two more terms included a provision to outlaw same-sex marriage.

After sending troops into Ukraine in 2022, the Kremlin ramped up a campaign against what it called the West’s “degrading” influence, in what rights advocates saw as an attempt to legitimize the war. That year, the authorities adopted a law banning propaganda of “nontraditional sexual relations” among adults, effectively outlawing any public endorsement of LGBTQ people.

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Another law passed in 2023 prohibited gender transitioning procedures and gender-affirming care for transgender people. The legislation prohibited “medical interventions aimed at changing the sex of a person,” as well as changing one’s gender in official documents and public records. It also amended Russia’s Family Code by listing gender change as a reason to annul a marriage and adding those “who had changed gender” to a list of people who can’t become foster or adoptive parents.

“Do we really want to have here, in our country, in Russia, ‘Parent No. 1, No. 2, No. 3’ instead of ‘mom’ and ‘dad?’” Putin said in September 2022. “Do we really want perversions that lead to degradation and extinction to be imposed in our schools from the primary grades?”

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