Russia's ban on "gay propaganda" is set to get one of its first big tests, following the charging of a young man arrested for holding up a pro-gay sign in his town center.
On Jun 29, the day Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law prohibiting "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations," 24-year-old Dmitry Isakov stood in the city of Kazan with a homemade sign supporting the rights of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, according to Gay Star News.
“Being gay and loving gays is normal. Beating gays and killing gays is criminal,” Isakov's sign proclaimed boldly.
His one-man protest came to a violent end when he was accosted and roughed up by plainclothes police officers, reports The Times of London. The officers mocked Isakov with homophobic slurs, badly injured his knee and threw him in a car, where “they started to threaten me and made homophobic jokes," he told the Times.
Undeterred, Isakov resumed his protest the following day, but his vigil was stopped again by police, this time aided by the activist's own parents.
Though Isakov was initially released, his legal team told BuzzFeed on Sep. 1 that Russian authorities decided to press charges after a teenager in a different province saw the protest online and made a compliant. The teen, Erik Fedoseyev, has since said he was coerced into making the complaint by his homophobic father, according to BuzzFeed.
If convicted, Isakov faces a fine of 5,000 rubles ($150). For foreigners, the maximum fine is 100,000 rubles ($3,000), up to 15 days in prison, deportation and denial of re-entry into Russia, according to The Associated Press.
According to BuzzFeed, it seems possible that Isakov could become the first person convicted for violating Russia's gay propaganda law, though he is not the first to be threatened under the law. Four Dutch filmmakers working on a documentary about LGBT Russians were arrested in July and were released without having to stand trial, reports Time.
LGBT site Americablog notes Isakov's case has "confirmed activists’ worst fears" about the far-reaching extent of law, especially in terms of how it could endanger foreigners visiting Russia for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. It now appears that even "'gay propoganda' ... broadcast on the Internet will be cause for the arrest and persecution of Olympic attendees," wrote Americablog's John Aravosis.
People around the world have joined forces to protest Russia's anti-gay measure, and some have even called for an outright boycott of the Sochi Olympics.