Russian LGBTQ+ Venues Raided Following Court Ban on "Global LGBTQ+ Movement"
Less than 48 hours after Russia's Supreme Court declared the "global LGBTQ+ movement" an extremist organization, security forces carried out raids on gay clubs and bars across Moscow on Friday night. The police, citing a drug raid pretext, conducted searches in various LGBTQ+ venues, including a nightclub, a male sauna, and a bar known for hosting LGBTQ+ parties.
Eyewitnesses reported that security services checked and photographed patrons' documents during the raids, with some managers managing to warn customers before the police arrived. These actions followed the court ruling that labeled the LGBTQ+ "movement" as extremist, marking the latest in a decade-long crackdown on LGBTQ+ rights in Russia, particularly under President Vladimir Putin's emphasis on "traditional family values" during his 24-year tenure.
The Supreme Court's decision, prompted by a lawsuit from the Justice Ministry, has sparked concerns among activists who argue that the broad and vague definition could lead to crackdowns on any individuals or groups deemed part of the movement. Several LGBTQ+ venues, including St. Petersburg's Central Station, have already closed in response to the ruling.
Max Olenichev, a human rights lawyer working with the Russian LGBTQ+ community, expressed concerns that the ruling effectively bans organized activities defending LGBTQ+ rights. He suggested that Russian authorities might use the court ruling to enforce restrictions against LGBTQ+ initiatives in the country.
Before the ruling, leading Russian human rights groups had criticized the Justice Ministry lawsuit, calling it discriminatory and a violation of Russia's constitution. Attempts by LGBTQ+ activists to become parties in the case were rebuffed by the court.
Russia has a history of restrictive legislation targeting LGBTQ+ rights, including the infamous "gay propaganda" law in 2013, which banned public endorsement of "nontraditional sexual relations" among minors. In 2020, constitutional reforms extended Putin's rule and included a provision outlawing same-sex marriage.
Following the invasion of Ukraine in 2022, Russia intensified its campaign against what it termed the West's "degrading" influence, further curtailing LGBTQ+ rights. Laws passed in subsequent years banned propaganda of "nontraditional sexual relations" among adults and prohibited gender transitioning procedures and gender-affirming care for transgender people.
Russian authorities have consistently rejected accusations of LGBTQ+ discrimination, with Deputy Justice Minister Andrei Loginov stating earlier this month that "the rights of LGBT people in Russia are protected" legally. However, LGBTQ+ activists fear that the latest Supreme Court ruling will lead to increased restrictions on their rights and visibility in the country, prompting concerns of a potential exodus from Russia among LGBTQ+ individuals.