Metro Weekly

Russian Activist Fined For Violating Anti-Gay “Propaganda” Law

Russia's expanded 2022 law prohibits disseminating positive or neutral information about homosexuality or same-sex relationships.

Yan Dvorkin – Photo: Instagram

Yan Dvorkin, a Russian LGBTQ activist, has been fined for violating the country’s law prohibiting dissemination of pro-LGBTQ “propaganda.”

The law prohibits the distribution of any material that condones homosexuality, portrays homosexuality or same-sex relationships as normal, or presents LGBTQ content in a positive or even a value-neutral light. 

Passed in 2022, the law is an expansion of a 2013 law prohibiting the dissemination of LGBTQ content in media or in places where such content may be viewed by children, especially with respect to portraying “non-traditional sexual relationships” as normal. 

Suspected violations can result in fines of up to 400,000 rubles for individuals and up to 5 million rubles for organizations, such as media outlets, that are merely accused of disseminating pro-LGBTQ “propaganda” — regardless of whether they actually did.

According to Radio Svoboda, Russian government guardianship authorities brought a complaint against Dvorkin, the head of the Center T assistance group for transgender and nonbinary people and who is raising a foster child, in March for posts on his Telegram social media channel in which he mentioned living with a partner.

According to the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta, which has frequently clashed with Russia’s Putin-led government, Dvorkin was flagged for commenting on a statement by Vitaly Milonov, a member of parliament who became infamous a few years ago for hosting a reality TV show focused around the idea of “outing” a gay man living among straight men in a house.

Milonov, who has a history of anti-LGBTQ rhetoric, reportedly claimed that all people who had left Russia voluntarily should be labeled “active homosexuals.”

Dvorkin allegedly responded, in one of the Telegram posts flagged by state authorities, that that must mean that only “passive homosexuals” remained in the country, lacking “their partners and sex.”

During the trial, lawyers pointed out errors in the case and noted that screenshots of the offending posts had been cut off and taken out of context.

The defense also demanded that the trial be halted to allow Dvorkin to care for his foster child, who has a disability and several health conditions.

Dvorkin never pled guilty to violating the law during trial but did express opposition to the law’s provisions. 

“It is inhumane that the state makes it legal to discriminate against an entire group of the population, which is about 14 million citizens of Russia,” Dvorkin wrote in his appeal to the court, in a picture posted to Telegram.

“I never imposed on others what they should be and what they should do. I deeply respect the freedom of every person to be themselves,” he said in court.

Dvorkin was found guilty of violating the law, and fined 100,000 rubles, or the equivalent of $1,287 U.S. dollars. 

According to Radio Svoboda, Dvorkin intends to appeal the verdict.

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