Russia's Bad Weekend for Gay Rights

As the U.S. celebrated the intersection of Pride parades and two landmark Supreme Court decisions, Russia's weekend approached the Worst Timeline for gay rights there. 

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As the U.S. celebrated the intersection of Pride parades and two landmark Supreme Court decisions, Russia spent the weekend moving even closer to the Worst Timeline for gay rights there. On Saturday, police arrested dozens of protesters after anti-gay rights activists attacked about 100 pro-gay rights demonstrators. And today, President Putin signed a new law that criminalizes homosexual "propaganda" aimed at minors.

That "propaganda," as the AFP explains, includes any information "'directed at forming nontraditional sexual setup' or which may cause a 'distorted understanding' that gay and heterosexual relations are 'socially equivalent.'" In other words, more or less anything that talks about an LGBT identity as normal. This would presumably include resources to LGBT teenagers in the country. The law imposes fines on legal entities, officials, and individuals for said "propaganda," and includes provisions specifically for foreigners and international organizations in the country, including possible deportation. RIA Novosti quotes Putin's response to criticism that the law is homophobic: "It’s not about imposing some sort of sanctions on homosexuality. … It’s about protecting children from such information." A version of the law was already in effect in ten regions of the country.

Russia already has a 100-year ban on gay pride parades in Moscow, but Saturday's protest, specifically directed at the law Putin signed today, was authorized. Because of the ban, the Moscow pride march this year was held virtually. LGBT activists and individuals in the country are unlikely to be backed by popular support: according to Pew, just 16 percent of Russians think society should "accept" homosexuality. Plus, Putin's new thing in recent years has been trying to build a base of support form nationalists and Conservative Orthodox Christians. The "propaganda" law, along with a law Putin will likely sign soon banning gay couples worldwide from adopting Russian children, are part of that dual campaign. Earlier this month, the Atlantic published a good run-down of Russian homophobia and Putin's new emphasis on conservative values.

Meanwhile, LGBT activists in Russia have told Human Rights Watch that they've observed an increase in attacks towards LGBT Russians since parliament began debating the new law in January.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.