By 137-0 vote, Russian senate embraces 'gay propaganda' ban

Russian President Vladimir Putin (Photo courtesy of WIkimedia Commons)
Russian President Vladimir Putin (Photo courtesy of WIkimedia Commons)

Russia’s Senate voted overwhelmingly yesterday for a bill to impose strict fines for broadly defined “propaganda of non-traditional sex relations” in the presence of minors, including in the media and on the Internet.

The bill was passed 434-0 with one abstention on June 11 by Russia’s lower legislative body, the State Duma.  Before becoming low, it will need the signature of President Vladimir Putin, who has spoken favorably about it.

The Senate, known as the Federation House, voted 137-0 for the bill, also with one abstention.

Under the bill, individuals could be fined up to 100,000 rubles ($US 3,000 or €2,300) for publishing information deemed pro-gay, while organizations could be fined one million rubles ($30,000 or €23,200) and be shut down for 90 days.

Russian politicians claim that the bill would not discriminate against LGBT people  — they could live their lives without penalty, as long as they essentially remain in the closet, never speaking positively about themselves or their sexual orientation in any public forum where minors might be present.

Valentina Matviyenko (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)
Valentina Matviyenko (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

“They are ordinary equal members of the society. As adults, they are entitled to decide how they want to live. But when it comes to minors [the ban on propaganda] is not someone’s whim, but a demand from the society,”  said Federation Council leader Valentina Matvienko, according to the Russian RT network.

The “gay propaganda” ban is part of a wave of recent anti-gay actions in Russia, including beatings of LGBT protesters and imposition of crushing fines on LGBT rights organizations newly labeled as “foreign agents.”

Putin repeated the claim that the ban does not violate rights of sexual minorities.

“Some countries … think that there is no need to protect children from this. We do. We are not going to interfere,” Putin said. “But we are going to provide such protection the way that State Duma lawmakers have decided.”

Russian gay rights activist Nikolai Alekseev told Gay Star News which reported him saying:

‘Russia is isolating itself by criminalizing homosexual relations. We have seen the tip of the iceberg.’He added: ‘It cannot get worse. People are getting killed because they are gay. No one really cares in the government.’

On adoptions being banned for foreign couples, Alekseev said it will harm ‘Russian children who are kept in very miserable conditions’.

‘While Russian LGBTs have another day of sorrow, American LGBTs can celebrate their progress to equality. Congratulations! We ban gay propaganda and gay adoptions, you make all love equal!’ he added.

TruthDig described the political context of the ‘gay propaganda’ ban, as analyzed by the liberal newspaper Gazeta.ru, which sees the bill “as a political strategy by the ruling elite to distract popular attention from the country’s social and economic problems and to create unity by demonizing an unpopular minority”:

“Who this is is not very important. It could be gays, cyclists or people of other nationalities.” The supposed threat that homosexuals pose to “family values” seems, however, particularly suited to mobilize many conservatives. Right-wing groups in France and the tea party in the United States have applied similar strategies. The decisive difference is that homophobia is now official government policy in Russia.

In its propagation of the bill, the government clearly hopes to rally a conservative majority behind Putin. The president is not as popular as he used to be—the current approval rate of 48 percent is dangerously low for a centralized political system like Russia’s. The law against “gay propaganda,” which, according to Putin, originated “in the regions and reflects the attitude of Russian society,” is thus a populist way of harnessing emotions for political benefit. A similar strategy was also evident in the Pussy Riot trials last year.

 

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, Erasing 76 Crimes. Contact him at [email protected]

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