The LGBT community gained an unprecedented victory in Russia this week. When 16-year-old Maxim Neverov was fined for posting photos on social media of shirtless men hugging, he was charged and fined in juvenile court for what was considered “gay propaganda.” Though he was initially found guilty of “promoting non-traditional sexual relationship among minors,” Neverov appealed the case and, in a shocking turn of events, he won—marking the first victory in Russian courts against Putin’s anti-gay propaganda law.
The appeal took place in the city court of Biysk in Neverov’s hometown in Siberia, where Nevrov defended his right to freely post photos. His actions, though, were considered a violation of the “gay propaganda” law that forbids anything considered promoting homosexuality to minors. In the past, this law has prevented LGBT activist groups and pride marches. While discriminatory laws have been in place in Russia for decades, Neverov was the first minor to be charged under this law. In fact, homosexuality itself was classified as a criminal act in Russia up until 1993 and a mental illness until 1999.
Given Russia’s history of thwarting progressive legislation and preventing the overturning of oppressive laws, the victory was surprising to everyone involved. It was especially shocking to Neverov, who had already drafted something akin to a concession speech on social media before the ruling was announced. Nevrov’s victory is a major step forward for the Russian LGBT community, and it serves as a catalyst for further progress for LGBT rights in the future.