Russia's "Gay Propaganda" Law Violates International Law, Top Human Rights Court Rules

Europe's top human rights court ruled Tuesday that Russia's so-called "gay propaganda" ban violates international agreements protecting free speech and prohibiting discrimination.

Some regional governments had adopted versions of this legislation beginning in 2003, and it was enacted nationwide in 2013, setting up a showdown over LGBT rights ahead of the 2014 Olympics in Sochi. The law technically prohibits "propaganda of non-traditional sexual relationships to minors," but authorities have used the rule to justify shutting down LGBT rights protests and fined a newspaper for reporting about LGBT issues. It also led to an investigation of Apple after it rolled out gay-friendly emojis for the iPhone, and been invoked in bazar campaigns against everything from a statue of a pair of dolphins to a video of a tiger befriending a goat.

Tuesday's ruling came in a lawsuit brought by three LGBT rights activists who were fined under local versions of the ban for protests staged between 2009 and 2012 at venues including a building used by the city administration of St. Petersburg, a children's library in Arkhangelsk, and a school in Ryazan. After losing appeals to Russia's Constitutional Court, they took their case the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). The ECHR enforces a human rights convention ratified not only by all EU member states, but also Russia and 18 additional countries.

The ECHR ruled that the law violates international law, and rejected all the justifications for the provision by the Russian government. The Court also dismissed the Russian government's claims that inappropriate material could "convert" children to homosexuality. Read more via Buzzfeed