Russia's Largest Gay Nightclub Strives to Be a Haven Despite Horrific Attacks

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Some of the most extreme anti-gay activists are members of a radical Orthodox Christian group called "God's Will." Dmitry Enteo, the group's leader, said, to them, homosexuality is "filth."

"To us, homosexuality is no different than pedophilia, necrophilia, scatology," he said. "It's a real plague, a real virus that needs to be destroyed. We need to stop this tumor so it doesn't metastasize."

The group said it collected signatures to help the passage of the anti-gay propaganda law, and that it was confident it had majority support in Russia, even for its most extreme ideas.

"We want to introduce -- with the approval of the democratic referendum of course -- death penalty for those who want to promote homosexuality," Enteo said. "They should be stoned to death, like God ordered."

The group said it deeply opposed gay clubs and places that gays gather, but doesn't engage in raiding them.

But the constant harassment of Central Station, whatever its source, has taken its toll.

Throughout Moscow and beyond, it's not infrequent for Russian celebrities and politicians to make inflammatory remarks about gay people.

"To be publically gay it's not illegal, it's immoral," said lawmaker Vitaly Milonov. "It's disgusting to a majority of people because it's unnatural, it's a shame, a sin." In regards to Russia's gay clubs, he said, "I know some of them, but I prefer not to smell a bad taste."

To handle the harassment, club manager Lishchinsky has penned an open letter to President Putin asking him to help keep the club safe from anti-LGBT attacks.

But some are crumbing under pressure. One club manager had already left the country for Washington, D.C., and was seeking asylum in the United States. "Viktor," who has performed at Central Station for years, had a plane ticket for San Francisco. And a dancer named Alexander had a departure date for New York City. Alexei, too, said he was planning to leave the country.

"I don't feel like Russia can be better," he said. "I am saving my money to move from Russia and that's everything I can do now."

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