Friday, September 28, 2012

The Religious Right Around the Globe: Russia's Milonov Says Pray the Gay Away

The erroneous and dangerous belief that homosexuality can be "cured" just gained another proponent. RT reports that during an interview with Russian radio show Ekho Moskvy, Russian political leader Vitaly Milonov claimed that homosexuality could be cured through spiritual repentance. Milonov, an Orthodox Christian, called homosexuality an "illness" and a "bad habit" that could allegedly be cured with fasting and prayer. People can rid themselves of homosexuality just as they rid themselves of kleptomania or fornication, he asserted.

Now where have we heard that before? I thought.

Vitaly Milonov, deputy of the United Russia party and the Legislative Assembly lawmaking committee chair, has a long history of promoting homophobia in Russia. In November 2011, he introduced a controversial bill that forbid "promotion" of homosexuality to minors, which was signed into law by St. Petersburg governor Georgy Poltavchenko this year. The law has been loudly condemned by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, AllOut, and Ravnopravie. News reports indicate that LGBTQ rights activists have been fined and arrested under the law for activities as innocent as rallying or picketing with pro-LGBTQ signs.

Milonov's anti-gay rhetoric is well-known and harsh. In a March 2012 article from the St. Petersburg Times, Milonov criticized LGBTQ equality measures as "temporary trends", in contrast to "European tendencies" that reflect "the traditional spirit of Europe." He lamented the fact that "the state decided to make equal the natural, divine union of man and woman, and any other forms of sexual pleasures in the form of homosexuals, people with cut-off sexual parts or altered bodies ..." He also bluntly condemned LGBTQ pride parades as "demonstrations of the sin of Sodom."

At times, Milonov's accusations against LGBTQ persons have gotten him into hot water. According to Gay Star News, Russian gay rights activist Nikolai Alekseev filed a defamation lawsuit against Vitaly Milonov earlier this year after Milonov accused him of accepting overseas funds for gay rights campaigns.

Milonov's animosity toward LGBTQ issues and sexuality have led him to lash out at foreign entertainers. Several weeks ago, reported that Milonov wanted to ban minors less than 18 years of age from attending Lady Gaga's concert in St. Petersburg. According to Gazeta, he also warned organizers of a Madonna concert in St. Petersburg that the show should be "as decent as possible," adding that Madonna should not take off her pants. He reportedly threatened Madonna with penalties for engaging in "gay propaganda among minors." Milonov has also lashed out at MTV and the German heavy metal band Rammstein, according to RT.

In short, Milonov's claims that homosexuals can "pray away the gay" are just the latest controversy in his long history of anti-LGBTQ activism. It's easy to see why a homophobe such as Milonov claims that homosexuality can be cured. First, if homosexuality is seen as a pathology rather than a legitimate sexual orientation, it's easier to deny LGBTQ persons equal rights. Second, if homosexuality can supposedly be overcome through choice, why grant equal rights to people who "choose" to remain that way? Milonov's claims bring to mind the claims of U.S. homophobes who claim that homosexuality can be cured or transcended through faith -- and they likely perform the same political purpose.

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