Can There Be Real Change for LGBT Rights in Moscow?

Published: November 8, 2010

Mention the name Yury Luzhkov to an international LGBT rights activist, and you’re likely to get a snarl. As mayor of Moscow since 1992, Luzhkov built up a reputation that was fiercely anti-gay. He once called gay pride marches "Satanic," and said that same-sex love was inadmissible. He essentially went so far as to say that gay activists in his city would never be able to publicly demonstrate so long as he was mayor, else they would be smacked down and arrested. And indeed, many were under his tenure.

But Luzkhov had a huge falling out with Russia’s ruling political class, and in September 2010, he was removed from office by decree of Russia’s President, Dmitry Medvedev. Suddenly, the man dubbed one of the most homophobic politicians in the entire world was out of a job.

What does that mean for Russian LGBT activists, who had fought with Luzhkov for so many years? That’s the question many are wondering as a new leader, Sergey Sobyanin, takes over the Moscow mayor’s office. And it’s a question we’ll soon know the answer to, as dozens of Russian LGBT activists appeal to the city to allow a sanctioned pride parade — one that the city, under Luzhkov, hasn’t allowed for years.

As much as there is reason to be optimistic, given Luzhkov’s departure, there’s also plenty of reason to be a bit skeptical that things can change in Moscow overnight. Activists tried to schedule a rally for tomorrow, but were denied a permit by the city. But that temporary setback isn’t going to quiet the persistent advocacy that a number of folks in the city have kept up, even in the face of brutal hatred.

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