Gays Ask Medvedev To Permit Parade

The Moscow organizers of a gay-pride parade have appealed to President Dmitry Medvedev to help circumvent a city ban on their event by granting them permission to hold it on federal land within the city.

A City Hall official said the activists' efforts were "not worth a damn," Interfax reported.

Activists from the Moscow LGBT alliance, led by activist Nikolai Alexeyev, called on Medvedev to intervene on their behalf and allow them to gather at Alexandrovsky Sad on May 31. As a federal holding, the president has the right to overrule the city on the grounds of the park.

The group made the announcement during a news conference commemorating the 15th anniversary of the end of a Soviet-era law banning homosexuality.

In a sharply worded letter to the newly inaugurated president, the group accused Mayor Yury Luzhkov of violating numerous articles of the law on free speech and free assembly. "We, the leaders of the LGBT community of Russia, appeal to you for help in defending our rights as citizens and bring an end to discrimination against sexual minorities on the part of Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov," they said.

Gay activists have been locked in a long and acrimonious public battle with Luzhkov since 2006.

In 2006, during a Russian Orthodox Church conference at the Kremlin, he called the gay parade a "satanic event." His office has since denied every parade request, a move upheld as constitutional by the Moscow City Court in April 2007.

In May, organizers submitted more than 100 requests to hold the march on different dates and different locations throughout the city. A fiery Alexeyev brandished a stack of denied applications during Friday's news conference, several of which were refused by officials concerned about safety issues.

A 2007 parade led by Alexeyev in defiance of the ban turned violent. Anti-gay protesters attacked British gay rights activist Peter Tatchell and singer Richard Fairbrass as police stood by. Police detained the pair, as well as European Parliament deputies Marco Cappato of Italy and Volker Beck of Germany and 27 other people.

Dino Renvert, a spokesman for Beck, could not confirm on Friday whether he would attend this year's march, adding, "Mr. Beck always wants to attend such meetings in Russia in an atmosphere that is without violence and that is protected by authorities."

A spokeswoman for Medvedev could not confirm whether the Kremlin had received the letter. She also declined to comment on the position of the administration toward the appeal.

First Deputy Mayor Vladimir Resin said Saturday that the parade efforts were "not worth a damn" and threw in a dig at the organizers' sexual orientation, Interfax reported. "Construction takes up all my strength, and what's left needs to be spent on women," said Resin, who is City Hall's top official in charge of construction.

Alexeyev, who said the group would go ahead with the march, regardless of Medvedev's decision, seemed doubtful when asked whether the group had a better chance of receiving a permit from the president. "There is always a chance, and we are just using the chances that we have," he said. "If you don't do anything then nothing will happen."