A judge in St Petersburg has cleared the first man to be charged under the newly-created offence of promoting homosexuality around minors.

Sergey Kondrashov was, however, convicted of disobeying a police order.

AllOut.org said this morning the judge had cited a lack of evidence and protocols as the reasons for leaving the ‘gay propaganda’ charge out of her final decision in the Russian lawyer’s case.

Mr Kondrashov said he would appeal the decision, which convicted him of disobeying police orders regarding the sign, though the court did not subsequently deem Mr Kondrashov to be guilty of any offence by displaying that sign.

He had been arrested after holding up a banner reading: ‘A dear family friend is lesbian. My wife and I love and respect her … and her family is just as equal as ours.’

Kondrashov explains, “The courts are afraid of applying this law and do not want to take responsibility for its further enforcement. The judge’s decision is illogical in a legal sense, and it lacks common sense.”

Andre Banks, executive director of AllOut.org which is petitioning President Vladimir Putin on the law, said: “This law has brought no good and much embarrassment to St. Petersburg. The law is unenforceable, and it is a violation of long-standing international legal obligations.

“And the arrest of a straight, married Russian man reminds us that it crushes freedom of expression for all Russians.

“Today in St Petersburg, an irresponsible legislature was stalled by a responsible judiciary. Prime Minister Putin needs to intervene. This law has no place in modern Russia.”

Mr Kondrashov said he will appeal the decision: “This is the beginning of a long fight: I will continue to stand for what is right. I was not an activist before, but now, I am committed to fighting this “gay propaganda” law.

“Supporters of the law claim that it would “protect children,” but my arrest makes clear the real intention. This law is really about making lesbian, gay, bi and trans (LGBT) people disappear in Russia’s second largest city.

“And not just LGBT people – the law will muzzle people like me, straight people who care about our LGBT friends and family. Now that lawmakers in the Duma (the federal legislature) are debating a version of the law, this despicable law could go national – unless we fight it now.”