Efforts to ban ‘gay propaganda’ spread in Europe

Madonna (Photo courtesy of Olav ten Broek via Wiki Commons)
Madonna (Photo courtesy of Olav ten Broek via Wiki Commons)

Proposals to prohibit “gay propaganda” are spreading from St. Petersburg, Russia, which passed a law in early March banning activities that would promote gay culture among minors.

Similar suggestions are being considered by the Russian parliament, the city of Moscow, and in the Eastern European countries Moldova, Lithuania and Hungary.

Such bans are already in effect in the Arkhangelsk region northeast of St. Petersburg (adopted last September), the Kostroma region northeast of Moscow (adopted in December), and the Ryanzan region southeast of Moscow (adopted in 2006).

The Siberian regional government added a ban on “gay propaganda” today (April 26.)

The NDTV news website and ActUp.org reported that Alexander Ilushchenko, head of a Siberian regional committee on culture, education, sports and youth policy, said of the new Siberian law:

“It’s mainly about various gay parades… about their promotion among minors. It’s about preventing people who are not related to homosexuality from explaining to their kids what is going on.”

Uganda’s notorious “Kill the Gays” bill, under consideration on and off in the Ugandan parliament since 2009, contains a similar prohibition.

New York Times columnist Frank Bruni, in a blog post titled “Would This Post Get Me Jail Time in Russia?” cited evidence of the proposals’ growing popularity:

The city of Balti, Moldova, has also enacted a law against gay propaganda. The country of Lithuania was recently roiled by a parliamentary debate over one.

In Hungary, a bill of this nature was introduced about two weeks ago by the ultra-right Jobbik party. It isn’t likely to get much traction, but is in some small measure indicative of many Hungarians’ shrugging acceptance of homophobic insults and bitter feelings about gay visibility. Seemingly every year officials try to cancel Budapest’s gay pride parade and the matter winds up in court.

Opponents criticize these proposals for their vagueness as well as for encroaching on citizens’ freedom of expression.

The St. Petersburg law does not define the activities it bans, which led to the arrest of protesters opposed to the law on charges of violating it.

The singer Madonna has spoken out against the St. Petersburg law and says she will continue to do so during her scheduled concert there in August. The law’s author, Vitaly Milonov, has reportedly said she should be arrested for violating the law if she does so.

The news website RIA Novosti reported this week that the “First Fines for Promotion of Homosexuality in Russia” have been imposed in Arkhangelsk. It stated:

The prosecutors in Arkhangelsk argued that since passage of the law, social movement activists have repeatedly committed actions aimed at promoting homosexuality and “demonstrated the typical content of posters around the building of children’s library.”

One event organizer was fined 2,000 rubles ($68), and the other offenders (their number was not disclosed) were punished with fines of 1,800 rubles ($61).

Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, and editor/publisher of Erasing 76 Crimes. Contact him at [email protected]


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