Russia’s “Gay Propaganda” Law Recognized As Disgraceful By Everyone Except Russia

The legislature in St. Petersburg, Russia is pursuing a controversial new bill introduced by the United Russia party nicknamed the “gay propaganda” law.  If passed, the law would call for a penalty on activities that “promote sodomy, lesbianism, bisexuality and transsexuality.” Anyone found disobeying the order could be eligible for a fine of up to 5,000 rubles, and organizations could face fines up to 50,000 rubles.

In theory, the law’s purpose is to “protect minors” from “propaganda” around homosexuality; however, since the bill’s language doesn’t get much more specific than the idea of “promotion,” there’s widespread concern that it could come to apply to anything and everything from pride parades (which were already banned in Moscow this year, propaganda bill or no) to wearing rainbows or queer iconography. Perhaps most offensively, the same bill contains language banning “propaganda” promoting pedophilia, essentially equating the two.

The bill has already had the first of three readings it will undergo, in which it passed 37-1. It will come up for a second reading and vote tomorrow, November 30. Human rights groups worldwide are denouncing the St. Petersburg legislature for creating a law that essentially exists only to ensure that Russia’s LGBT community remains invisible and unheard, while simultaneously painting them as a danger to children. The Europe and Central Asia director at the Human Rights Watch said:

This bill is a blatant attack on freedom of expression and a thinly disguised attempt to silence Russia’s LGBT community. The effort to have this law adopted in St. Petersburg, known as Russia’s northern capital, is a test case for those who want to entrench discrimination against the LGBT community throughout the country.

The UK Foreign Office has called the proposed law “wrong,” noting that it violates the guarantee of non-discrimination in the European Convention on Human Rights, and also that “the idea that children need protecting from ‘gay propaganda’ is… mistaken.” Authorities in the UK also put together an initiative in which 12 European countries have sent letters of condemnation to St. Petersburg. In addition to their statement issued months ago after Moscow Pride was banned, the State Department has spoken out against the ‘gay propaganda’ bill: “The United States places great importance on combating discrimination against the LGBT community and all minority groups… Gay rights are human rights and human rights are gay rights.”

Russian politicians, however, seem to resent attempts from the West to comment on their legislation. Konstantin Dolgov, the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Commissioner for Human Rights, Democracy and the Rule of Law, was quoted as saying:

We are perplexed by the American side’s attempts to interfere in the legislative process in Russia, especially publicly. We consider these attempts inappropriate and inconsistent with the practice of interstate relations.

Furthermore, Dolgov doesn’t seem to see the law as at all discriminatory, noting that “all Russian citizens – despite their race, gender, religious and other beliefs – are guaranteed rights protection by the state.”

Even without any commentary from Europe, the UK or the US, however, Russian activists are obviously incensed and threatened by the bill. Nikolai Alexeyev of GayRussia.ru called the law a “disgrace,” saying that it “theoretically allows the ban of anything anywhere where kids could be present.” The second reading of the bill was temporarily delayed and moved to the 30th, but the third reading is still continuing as scheduled.

Russia’s LGBT community has always been struggling against oppression and repression from the state; even before now, when Alexeyev and his organization have attempted to hold rallies or events, they’ve found themselves opposed by “riot police and activists with Russia’s dominant Orthodox Church and pro-Kremlin youth movements.” The European Court of Human Rights found Russia in violation of the freedom of assembly in 2010 for banning a gay pride parade. Being punished for agitating for greater freedom and rights is nothing new for Russia’s gay community, but if this bill passes, this might be the first time it’s provided for by the law.

AllOut and Change.org are both hosting online petitions for the international LGBT community to voice their disappointment in the Russian legislature for pursuing such an unconscionable agenda against their queer citizens.

Rachel is Autostraddle's Managing Editor and the editor who presides over news & politics coverage. Originally from Boston, MA, Rachel now lives in the Midwest. Topics dear to her heart include bisexuality, The X-Files and tacos. Her favorite Ciara video is probably "Ride," but if you're only going to watch one, she recommends "Like A Boy." You can follow her on twitter and instagram.

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21 Comments

  1. I know this one’s quite a big story, but always great to see reporting on here about the shittiness outside the US. I mean, it’s not great to see the shittiness, but it’s great to see pretty words about the shittiness.

  2. Unfortunately we have a lot of that kind of thing in the USA.

    Try the Family Research Council -a hate group whose founder and still involed key figure was recently outed.

    Peter spriggs said of gays – I want to export them.

    the only question is whether he wanted to export them like hitler did – to the ovens……….

    or to Uganda where his pals are trying to pass a genocide of gays law.

  3. There is going to be an Olympics held in Russia in 2014 in the resort town of Sochi. A worldwide boycott of this event needs to be organized and made clear to Russia that a country which approves of anti-LGBT legislation like this (which has already passed in several large cities) doesn’t deserve to have us spend our tourist bucks there. Russia desperately needs the money and is staking a huge amount of national prestige on it. This is how to gets them where they’ll really respond.

  4. Furthermore, Dolgov doesn’t seem to see the law as at all discriminatory, noting that “all Russian citizens – despite their race, gender, religious and other beliefs – are guaranteed rights protection by the state.”

    I guess it’s easy for the state to guarantee the protection of rights if there are no rights to be given. Мое сердце страдает…=(

  5. Any Russian ‘Straddlers on here who have much of an idea where this sort of thing is stemming from? I don’t know a great deal about Russia’s history re: gay rights, but I admit I’m a little surprised to have seen this level of virulence going strong in the last few years. Like, who is backing this? Is it religious in origin, or a more cynical political ploy, or is something else entirely going on?

    • The Russian Orthodox Church has a lot of political influence and it’s been getting increasingly heavy handed of late. It’s not just the gays they’re targeting, either. I’ve read a lot of stories about oppression of pagans in Russia in the last few years as well.

    • it actually doesn’t have much to do with religion. homophobia in russia has more to do with the fact that homosexuality was criminalized under communism. united russia, the majority party here, is responsible for introducing the bill. there are a lot of rumors going around as to why. elections are coming up next month and some people think that the bill was intended to get more voter support for united russia.

      • Yes, but the Eastern Orthodox Church has always been intensely conservative and especially so with regards to homosexuality. That was the case before 1917 and was socially imported into the Bolshevik Revolution. Putin (and United Russia) has close links to the church. It might have more to do with acquiring power than religious reasons but the connection is there.

        One more note about the Olympics… they are happening on lands which were stolen from the Circassian people in the 1860s (basically, the native people of what’s now Southern Russia). The slalom event is actually going to occur on what was an ancient burial site of the Circassian people. They are attempting to organize a boycott of the Olympics and this is just one more important reason to do so.

        • my point was that this particular bill is not generally motivated by religion – orthodox or otherwise. putin may have ties to the orthodox church on paper, but as someone who lives here, i can assure you that russian politics is a largely secular game. this was not the case 100 years ago, but what country’s politics has changed more than russia’s in 100 years?

          i think as americans (i’m assuming you’re american?) it’s tempting to assume that all homophobia and homophobic policy comes from religion, which in russia is just not the case.

          more importantly, it’s looking like the bill is not going to be passed.

  6. i’m glad you guys are covering this. it’s very close to home since i’m living in st. petersburg and have been feeling pretty nauseous thinking about what could happen if this bill is actually passed into law.

    one thing i would add: the duma was originally supposed to vote on the bill on the 23rd but they pushed back the second reading to the 30th (today) as a result of the protests and flashmobs that were staged around the city, as well as the pressure coming from amnesty international and allout.org

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