The law has come into effect amidst an increasingly homophobic cultural climate in Russia, with high-profile cases of anti-gay violence and torture igniting global outrage. Alarmed by their increasingly hostile homeland, some LGBTQ Russians have sought asylum in more welcoming countries.
The anti-gay law has brought controversy to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, as Russia's Interior Ministry has announced that the anti-gay propaganda law will not be suspended during the games. In a half-hearted attempt to quell controversy, Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko assured the public that the law would not interfere with athletes' private lives, according to the Associated Press. "We want to protect our children whose psyches have not formed from the propaganda of drug use, drunkenness and non-traditional sexual relations," he said. The International Olympic Committee has forbidden athletes from using the Sochi games as a platform for pro-LGBTQ activism, according to MSN News. Understandably, LGBTQ rights supporters have expressed outrage, with some calling for a boycott of the games, others calling for a venue change, and some calling for public shows of pro-LGBTQ solidarity at the Sochi Olympics.
In yet another example of right-wing callousness, voices from the Religious Right have defended Russia's anti-gay propaganda law. Several Religious Right figures have praised Russia for allegedly defending the family and protecting youth, ignoring the devastation caused by homophobic attitudes and retrograde policies in Russia.
First, RIA Novosti quoted Larry Jacobs, managing director of the World Congress of Families, as he contemplated Russia's future as a right-wing ally. “Russia could be a great ally for conservatives, on issues like defending the family, abortions, even strengthening marriage and promoting more children,” he tolds RIA Novosti. Earlier this summer, Jacobs also spoke to End Times radio host Rick Wiles about his organization's plans to host its next global summit in Russia. According to Right Wing Watch, Jacobs praised Russia for preventing the "corruption" of children.
"The Russians might be the Christian saviors to the world; at the UN they really are the ones standing up for these traditional values of family and faith ... And the homosexual propaganda—the law in the Russian Duma it passed on first reading, it would ban propaganda to minors, preventing them from corrupting children. What a great idea and the rest of Europe is going the other way, legalizing LGBT propaganda."
Right-wing commentator Pat Buchanan has come under fire for praising Putin's alleged moral backbone. In an August 13th commentary at Town Hall entitled "Post v. Putin -- Whose Side Are You On?", Buchanan frowned upon America's "moral and cultural elites" for pressuring Putin on LGBTQ rights. "We can no longer even agree on what is good and evil," he wrote, insisting that America has lost sight of its moral moorings compared to Russia. He sneered at progressive commentators for comparing the oppression of the LGBTQ community in Russia to the oppression of Jews under the Third Reich. (Hat tip to Media Matters.)
"What this reveals is the distance America has traveled, morally and culturally, in a few short years, and our amnesia about who we Americans once were, and what it is we once believed.Ever the homophobe, Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association told Voice of Russia that the Russian government is "right to be concerned with propaganda".
Only yesterday, homosexual sodomy, which Thomas Jefferson said should be treated like rape, was outlawed in many states and same-sex marriage was regarded as an absurdity."
"Russia is not being homophobic, it’s homorealistic – the Russian government is trying to take the issue into consideration and establish public policy to contribute to public health, as this lifestyle is not be promoted, endorsed or granted special legal protection."Fischer defended Russia's ban on LGBTQ "propaganda", arguing that it protects youth and affirms heterosexuality as "God's design".
"I think the Russian government is right to be concerned with propaganda on teenagers who are at the age of struggling through sexual identity issue and we should help to channel these urges in productive behavior. Heterosexuality is God’s design. Policies that encourage young people to think this are good ideas."Right Wing Watch reports that William Owens, the religious liaison for the National Organization for Marriage, praised Russia's anti-gay law. In an August e-mail to the Coalition of African-American Pastors, Owens disparaged LGBTQ activists and applauded Russia "for taking a stand for children!"
"When I heard the news report regarding Russia’s new law prohibiting the propagating of homosexuality I was intrigued but the outcry that followed from the American news media, the LGBT community, and gay rights advocates was very disturbing ... Friend, this response from the homosexual community is absurd. Since when does America have the right to force its immorality, depravity, and sin on another nation? We are currently witnessing the free fall of our nation. Over the past five years, we’ve moved from a super power position to a nation that is perceived to be weak and contemptible. This overall decline of our nation has proven to be an unequivocal manifestation of a ‘heavenly verdict’ against the nation.The American Religious Right is not alone in its defense of Russia's anti-gay policies. Unfortunately, Canada's far right has also leaped into the fray. In an August 7th press release, Real Women of Canada criticized Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs, John Baird, for frowning on homophobia abroad. Real Women of Canada slammed Baird for "working extensively behind the scenes to prevent Russia from passing legislation designated to protect Russian minors from homosexual propaganda." Ironically, the group condemned Baird for allegedly imposing his "intolerant world" on Russia.
With the battle for the family waging across this nation, instead of condemning a sovereign nation for its laws we need to be changing ours. The family unit is under attack and we must stand against those who want to redefine and destroy it. The family is the foundation of a society and the glue that holds it together. I applaud the Russians for taking a stand for children!
And though I cannot honestly speak to the morality of Russia or its leaders, I can say that it appears that the leaders of Russia are attempting to stem the tide of moral decline in ‘their’ country. And I do acknowledge that things are not ideal there, but it seems to me that we need to take the beam out of our own eye before we are in a position to take the beam out of theirs! America is not in a position to judge or impose our so-called ‘morality’ on anyone, let alone a sovereign nation!"
"It is a fact, that homosexual activists in Canada are intolerant of any resistance to their demands, and, as such have become a tyrannical minority.Homophobic figures from the Religious Right have shown their true colors. Indifferent to the harm that homophobia and unjust laws are inflicting on LGBTQ Russians, Religious Right voices celebrate Russia's slide into bigotry. Russian and North American homophobes may spout the same rhetoric about protecting children and safeguarding morality, but their true motivations are cold.
Conscientious objections based on religion and traditional values have led, in Canada, to public officials, educators and business owners facing heavy fines and lengthy court battles for rejecting the homosexual lifestyle. This is not democracy. It is not equality.
This is the strange, intolerant world Mr. Baird wishes to impose on sovereign countries, despite their own cultures and religion which find this unreasonable and unacceptable.
Mr. Baird’s actions are highly offensive to conservative taxpayers. He cannot and must not undermine other countries’ sovereignty and dignity, rooted in stable family structures and religious faith, in order to impose his own value system on them."
The Religious Right's global efforts reveal much about its goals, whether it's applauding anti-gay legislation in Russia, cultivating homophobia in Uganda, or networking with international counterparts at the World Congress of Families. As I've argued before, the Religious Right is a global issue, and we would do well to monitor and decry its international activism.
To read additional commentary, visit the following links.
PolicyMic: Russia's Anti-Gay Law, Spelled Out in Plain English
Equality Matters: Right-Wing Media Act As Russia's PR Agents In Anti-Gay Crackdown
The New Yorker: The Battle Over Russia's Anti-Gay Law