June 3, 2009 / 12:43 PM / 8 years ago

Russia gays to take mayor to court over "queer" jibe

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Gay rights activists in Moscow plan to take the city’s rampantly homophobic mayor to court for insulting their dignity during an interview in which he said “queers” undermined a morally healthy society.

A Moscow court rejected a previous case made by gay rights campaigners against 72-year-old mayor Yuri Luzhkov in 2007 after he described their marches as “satanic” and banned one.

Prominent gay rights activist Nikolai Alexeyev said on Wednesday that lawyers would present a new case against Luzhkov to a Moscow court this week and later to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.

“Nobody in Russia can win against the authorities. This is about raising awareness,” he told Reuters by telephone.

Besides banning several gay parades in Moscow, Luzhkov has also blamed homosexuals for the spread of HIV/AIDS.

The issue of gay rights in Russia heated up in May, which saw the rejection of a lesbian couple’s attempt to apply for a marriage license and the banning of a gay rights march to coincide with the Eurovision Song Contest, held in Moscow for the first time.

Police detained around 80 people, including Alexeyev, who tried to hold the march anyway.

Luzhkov’s latest comments, urging Alexeyev and other activists to take him to court, were broadcast on Tuesday by a state-run television program.

“Our society has healthy morals and rejects all these queers,” Interfax news agency quoted Luzhkov as saying on TV Center. “If you even imagine that they get permission to hold their parade and gather, they will simply be killed.”

In 2006, militant Russian Orthodox believers and neo-fascists attacked a gay rights protest, injuring some of the demonstrators.

The gay scene in Moscow is relatively small and low profile but accessible. Most clubs and bars aimed at the gay community are known through word of mouth rather than being openly advertised.

Alexeyev said Luzhkov was using security concerns as a smokescreen and did not want to see gay activists on Moscow’s streets.

“If the mayor of Moscow cannot provide security for a group of 100 people then he should not be mayor,” Alexeyev said.

The vocal gay activists are a minority in Moscow’s homosexual community and have not attracted large numbers to their protests.

Editing by Jonathon Burch

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