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A committee defending the rights of sexual minorities
A committee defending the rights of sexual minorities has sent a letter to President Dmitry Medvedev asking him to allow a gay pride parade in central Moscow, Ekho Moskvy radio said Friday.

The Alexander Garden next to the Kremlin, where gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transvestites want to hold their parade, is one of the only places in the capital, along with the Kremlin, that is under the jurisdiction of the federal rather than municipal authorities.

Moscow authorities have rejected official applications by Gay Parade organizers over the past three years for permission to march, on the grounds that it would interfere with the rights and everyday lives of ordinary Muscovites.

Mayor Yury Luzhkov has branded gay parades "Satanic" and vowed that they will never be permitted in the capital, while the Russian Orthodox Church and various far-right groups have sworn to halt any attempt to hold a march in support of gay rights in Russia.

Last year, Moscow's Tverskoi District Court ruled that a city ban on holding a Gay Pride Parade was legal. Around 100 protestors subsequently gathered outside City Hall to submit a petition to the mayor against what they called an 'unfounded and illegal prohibition on holding the march in support of sexual minorities in Russia.'

The protest turned violent and a British gay rights activist was kicked and beaten by extremists, and police detained 31 people, including two Italian members of the European parliament, in the ensuing skirmish.

Homosexuality was legalized in Russia in 2003, but discrimination against gays and lesbians remains widespread. The hostile crowd during the 2007 May demonstration included people carrying crosses and wearing Orthodox Church dress, along with ultranationalists.

Russia is a member of the Council of Europe, and a signatory to the European Convention of Human Rights, which obliges the state to allow demonstrations to be held.

The International Day Against Homophobia is held on May 17 every year.

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