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Officials ban gay rights demonstrations

Published: 12:10PM Friday October 10, 2008 Source: Reuters

Russian officials have banned two gay rights demonstrations in the city of Tambov, thwarting the efforts of local activists to protest at what they call officially sanctioned homophobia, the events' organiser said.

Local officials said they had received numerous letters and phone calls from townspeople, urging them to forbid the demonstrations as an offense to the city's traditions, Interfax news agency reported.

Gay pride parades, unheard of in the days of the Soviet Union, have been allowed in some cities in recent years but are generally met with public and political derision.

The mayor of Moscow, Yury Luzhkov, famously called such events "satanic" after banning a gay pride parade in 2006 and saying that he would never allow them in the capital.

Nikolai Alexeyev, the Moscow-based activist who was organising the events in Tambov, said he would appeal to the European court of human rights in Strasbourg if local courts refused to reverse the ban in the central Russian city.

"The bureaucrats who made this decision are just following the official line set by the mayor of Moscow," Alexeyev said. "It is officially forbidden to discuss homosexuality in public."

He added that about 25 demonstrators were to picket the offices of the Tambov administration, and another 200 people were to rally in the city on October 18.

Activists who have ignored similar bans have often faced violent clashes with counter-protesters, arrest and prosecution.

The Russian Orthodox Church, resurgent since the fall of the Soviet Union, has helped turn public sentiment against gay pride events, which the head of the church, Patriarch Alexey II, has called "propaganda for homosexuality".