Charges Dropped Against Creator of Russian Gay Support Group

MOSCOW, February 21 (RIA Novosti) – A court in Russia on Friday dropped charges of disseminating homosexual “propaganda” to minors against the creator of an online support group for gay teenagers, the activist said on her Facebook page.

The case against Lena Klimova was initiated in late January in the Urals town of Nizhny Tagil at the request of Vitaly Milonov, an ultraconservative regional lawmaker who has been at the forefront of anti-gay legislation in Russia.

Klimova, who was charged with violating a June law prohibiting the “promotion of nontraditional sexual relations to minors,” faced a fine of up to 100,000 rubles ($2,800).

“We just had a court hearing. The gay propaganda case has been closed due to absence of an administrative offence. Sorry Milonov,” Klimova wrote on Facebook.

The Children-404 pro-LGBT group on the Russian social networking site Vkontakte publishes personal statements by Russian gay teens on their struggle for acceptance and against homophobia in the country’s conservative provinces.

Milonov requested an official probe into the group’s activities, which he said inveigled teens into questioning their sexuality.

“Without such groups, no kids like that would exist,” said Milonov, who has also campaigned against MTV, modern operas, abortion and the teaching of evolution in schools.

Klimova said the shutting down the group would deal a serious blow to the mental health of Russian LGBT teenagers, who she said used it to speak openly about themselves and receive useful advice. 

This is the fifth court case to date to be pursued under the “gay propaganda” law, which has caused much indignation among rights activists in the West.

The most recent case, in the far eastern Khabarovsk Region, saw the editor-in-chief of a local newspaper fined 50,000 rubles ($1,400) last month for reporting about a local geography teacher who said he had been mistreated for being gay.

That case marked the first time a Russian media outlet was prosecuted under the “gay propaganda” law, which Russian officials are at pains to insist does not constitute discrimination against LGBT people.

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