Russian gay rights activists are to take the city’s homophobic mayor to court for saying that gay people undermined the heart of a morally health society.

Yuri Luzhkov officially banned Slavic Pride from marching at the same time as the city hosted the final of the Eurovision Song Contest. He had described them as satanic.

“Our society has healthy morals and rejects all these queers,” Mr Luzhkov told TV Centre. “If you even imagine that they get permission to hold their parade and gather, they will simply be killed.”

Nikolai Alexeyev of GayRussia has said that his lawyers would present a case to a Moscow court and later hopes to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. Although Mr Alexeyev admits that the case is primarily about raising awareness.

After British gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell was among a number of marchers arresested during Slavic Pride, Mr Alexeyev: “Luzhkov has done more than anyone to publicise gay rights in Russia. By stopping the gay parade he has provoked massive media coverage of our fight against homophobia. The Russian media has been full of reports about gay issues for the last week. This has hugely increased public awareness and understanding of gay people.

“Slowly, we are eroding homophobic attitudes. Through this media visibility, we are helping to normalise queer existence. After our successive gay protests in Moscow since 2006, most people are less shocked about homosexuality. We have a very long way to go, but gradually we are winning hearts and minds, especially among younger Russians.

“We ought to give Luzhkov an award. His violation of our right to protest has given us a remarkable platform, with days of free publicity about lesbian gay human rights. It is the equivalent of about 200 million roubles (nearly four million pounds) in free advertising.”