European human rights court rules against Russia on LGBT discrimination
A European human rights court has declared that Russia’s refusal to allow three LGBT organizations to register is “unjustified and discriminatory.”
While the European Court of Human Rights doesn’t have a lot of power to push enforcement action on the decision, this was seen as a victory by human rights groups.
Russian had refused to recognize these groups reportedly for their aim to promote and protect LGBT rights.
European human rights court unconvinced by Russia
The court said Russia’s refusal was in violation of the rights to freedom of association and discriminatory on the grounds of sexual orientation.
The court judgement was informed by third-party intervention given by the European Human Rights Advocacy Centre (EHRAC), the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA-Europe), and the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ).
The case had been filed by Russian individuals and non-profit organizations like Rainbow House, the Movement for Marriage Equality, and Sochi Pride House.
The court had rejected the Russian government’s assertion as “unconvincing” that the applications were refused on procedural grounds.
What’s more, the court had determined that for the organizations to obtain registration, they would have to renounce their aim of promoting LGBT rights.
“Those grounds touched upon the very core of the applicant organisations and affected the essence of the right to freedom of association,” the court said.
Russia’s refusal to recognize LGBT associations
Russia had defended itself before the court by citing its laws prohibiting “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations aimed at minors.”
They also warned that the aims of the groups is “contrary to national traditions, to the State family policy, and to Russian law, which provided that marriage was the union of a man and a woman with the aim of giving birth and raising children.”
One organization had their application turned down on the grounds that they would “destroy the moral values of society,” lead to population decrease, and violate the rights of Russians who find displays of same-sex relations as offensive.
Another association was refused over several technical irregularities. However, this was later rejected on the grounds of “extremism.”
A third group was turned down on the grounds that their aim– promoting same-sex marriage– was incompativble with “established morality.”
This was the third time that the court had ruled against Russia on the matter of the rights of LGBT people: once in in 2017 for a “gay propaganda” law and once in 2018 over a ban on Pride events.
Reactions to the European human rights court’s decision
In their decision, the European court said that “citizens should be able to form a legal entity in order to act collectively in a field of mutual interest.”
In reaction to the decision, Joanne Sawyer, a lawyer for EHRAC, said: “This judgment reaffirms the vital importance for individuals to be able to group together and organise themselves around shared causes.”
Meanwhile, Arpi Avetisyan, a Senior Litigation Officer for ILGA-Europe, said: “This judgment sends a key message to LGBTI activists in Russia and other countries across Europe who are facing similar discriminatory restrictions.
“Refusal to register associations cannot be justified on the ground of protection of morals,” said Avetisyan.
Livio Zilli, Senior Legal Adviser for ICJ, welcomed the decision, stating that Russia’s refusal to register these groups “cannot be justified on the grounds of protecting moral values or the institutions of the family and marriage.”
The court was unanimous on their ruling against Russia, but voted 4-3 ordering Russia to pay €42,500 to the complainants.