A court in St. Petersburg has ruled that the LGBT organization Coming Out must register as a "foreign agent," a label that essentially implies the organization is a spy operation.
The group is one of hundreds of human rights organizations that has had this label slapped on them or been taken to court by government officials for failing to register voluntarily under a 2012 law that requires NGOs who receive funding from abroad to declare themselves "foreign agents." The Justice Ministry registered five new groups as foreign agents this week alone. Coming Out had been fighting the designation in court for 16 months.
"[Printing] the label 'foreign agent' on all the public materials of the organization would be a sign for wider society that the idea of protecting the rights of LGBT people is something 'foreign,' and, therefore unnecessary and even harmful," said the group in a statement on its Facebook page.
According to the group's statement, the judge found that the group violates the rights of "persons with traditional sexual orientation," and that the state had an interest in limiting the reach of publications like a pamphlet against discrimination.
If "someone reads this brochure, and is impressed, and might start to share these thoughts with other people, create a coalition and start activities," the statement quotes the judge as saying.
J. Lester Feder is a world correspondent for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC. His secure PGP fingerprint is 2353 DB68 8AA6 92BD 67B8 94DF 37D8 0A6F D70B 7211
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