Charged with staging an unlicensed demonstration and picketing, the couple was immediately taken to a police station, where they were held for several hours. They are now waiting to see if the case will go to court.
After being released, the couple released a statement online.
“So much has happened over the past two days. Thank you all for your support, for the fact that we found a lawyer so quickly, and for all the kind words. We have not done anything heroic. We just wanted to bring flowers and a poster to the Embassy today […] Now we just have to wait – Russian police disappointed me but I hope the court will not. But be that as it may, all love wins.”
Felix also gave an interview online, which you can watch below.
In spite of the disturbing and unjustified arrest, the memorial outside the Embassy continued to grow, joining in the many memorials around the world that beautifully, reverently mourned the loss of those 49 lives in Orlando on Sunday morning.
While this expression of solidarity from across the world is heartwarming, LGBT people in many countries across the planet still do not have equal rights and protection that their heterosexual counterparts enjoy. Russia is among the worst countries in the world when it comes to LGBT rights, and while Putin uses legal rhetoric to deny claims of homophobia or outright prejudice against the gay community, his laws say otherwise.
LGBT Rights in Russia
In 2013, Putin signed a law that bans any type of promotion of or “propaganda” featuring LGBT relationships–referred to as “non-traditional sexual relationships”–where minors might see it. An outright denial of free speech, the law prohibits gay pride events or even speaking in favor of gay rights. Citizens or companies that break the law can be fined $50–15,000, with businesses risking being shut down for several months. Foreigners who break the law can be jailed, fined, and deported. A survey conducted by the Russian Public Opinion Research Center reported that at least 90% of Russians supported the law.
A 2013 study by the Pew Research Global Attitudes Project showed that 74% of Russians believed homosexuality should not be accepted in society, a number that had risen from 60% in 2002, showing rising rates of homophobia and prejudice.
Another 2013 survey reported the disturbing statistics that 22% of Russians believed homosexuals should be forced to undergo treatment, 16% felt they should be isolated from the rest of society, and 5% said they should be “liquidated.” Homosexuality was considered a mental illness in Russia until 1999.
In spite of their signs of solidarity, it would seem that many Russian people still do not embrace their LGBT peers as equal.