Russia’s Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that activists the LGBTQ+ movement should be designated “extremists,” sparking fears of arrests and prosecutions of gay and transgender people.
The ruling came from a lawsuit filed with the court earlier this month by Russia’s Justice Ministry which argued that authorities had identified “signs and manifestations of an extremist nature” by an LGBTQ+ “movement” operating in Russia, including “incitement of social and religious discord.”
The Ministry offered no details or evidence of its claims. The hearing took place behind closed doors and with no defendant. Some LGBTQ+ activists have said their efforts to become a party to the lawsuit were rejected by the court.
Max Olenichev, a human rights attorney who works with the Russian LGBTQ+ community, told The Associated Press ahead of the hearing that the Russian government was targeting a so-called “international civic LGBT movement”—which he noted was a “nonexistent organization.”
Olenichev went on to assert that by labeling this so-called movement extremist, “Russian authorities, with this court ruling at hand, will enforce it against LGBTQ+ initiatives that work in Russia, considering them a part of this [nonexistent] civic movement.”
Last December, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law expanding bans first enacted in 2013 on so-called LGBTQ “propaganda” in Russia, making it illegal to promote same-sex relationships or suggest that non-heterosexual orientations are “normal.”