Tolerant? Of course! But keep it private (legal analysis of the Alekseyev v. Russia case)

Published: October 22, 2010

Yesterday, the Court announced its judgment in Alekseyev v. Russia with an outcome readers can easily predict. For three years in a row, Russia banned gay marches in Moscow allegedly on safety grounds. From the statements made by the Mayor of Moscow and the Government’s observations before the Court, it was clear however that the main concern behind the ban was not exactly safety. The decisions of the Russian authorities, the Court noted, had been mainly guided by the prevailing moral values of the majority.

It is really hard to say which of the reasons advanced by the government to justify the bans is the most unacceptable. I find three of them particularly striking.

1. Tolerant as long as it is in the private sphere

Implying that the event would involve graphic demonstrations of obscenity (of the type comparable to the exhibition in the case of Muller and Others v. Switzerland) that might have affected involuntary spectators especially children, the Russian government claimed that “any form of celebration of homosexual behavior should take place in private or in designated meeting places with restricted access.” It added that plenty of bars and clubs were available in Moscow for that purpose and went as far as listing them!

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