Around 40 people were arrested in Moscow on Sunday after gay activists demanding the right to hold a gay pride parade in the Russian capital clashed with Orthodox Christians protesting against homosexuality.
Gay rights activists first gathered outside the city council building, The Associated Press reported, where counter-demonstrators expressed their belief that homosexuality is a sin. Police quickly moved in to try and prevent violence between the two groups, but that did not stop gay rights activists from attempting a second protest at city hall, where more people were arrested.
Police put the number of those detained at around 40 people, and revealed that although the majority were gay activists, Christian demonstrators who pushed against police buses were also arrested.
Although homosexuality became legal in Russia in 1993, gay rights activists have been angry at the government for denying them permission to stage a gay pride parade in the nation's capital. Former Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov even described gay parades as "satanic," while Sergei Sobyanin, the current mayor, has warned that gay pride parades could offend the religious beliefs of many Russians, as Christian Orthodoxy is the dominant religion in the country.
The Russian Orthodox Church, which stands in defense of traditional marriage as between one man and one woman, has clashed with gay and secular activists in the past who are unhappy with the church's support of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Earlier this year, the Russian all-female punk rock band "Pussy Riot" broke into Christ the Savior Cathedral and performed an anti-church song at the altar, where only priests are allowed to stand. The group was later arrested, but the attack was deemed an act of defiance against the church.
"We are under attack by persecutors. The danger is in the very fact that blasphemy, derision of the sacred is put forth as a lawful expression of human freedom which must be protected in a modern society," declared Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, at a national prayer event in April.
Some gay right activists have criticized the government for treating homosexuality as a contagious disease, and demanded that the gay pride parade be approved.
"It's as if they thought that if all left-handed people held a parade, then afterward everyone would become left-handed," said activist Galina Kaptur. "This is wrong."
"I will not allow perverts to bring the wrath of God onto our city," argued Dmitry Tsarionov, a Christian protestor. "I want our children to live in a country where a sin that so awfully distorts human nature is not preached in schools."