Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said it wouldn’t happen, but a measure to bring a ban on the promotion of LGBT issues or sexuality—similar to the one already in effect in St. Petersburg—will be voted on by the Russian parliament later this month.
Pushed by the Russian Orthodox Church and the Kremlin, the bill would make “propaganda of sodomy, lesbianism, bisexuality and transgenderism” a crime punishable with jail time and fine of up to $16,000.
The AP reports the measure is part of a larger campaign to curtail Western liberalism and divert attention away from disatisfaction with President Vladimir Putin.
But in this case, the move has been met mostly with either indifference or open enthusiasm by average Russians: Levada polls conducted last year show that almost two thirds of Russians find homosexuality “morally unacceptable and worth condemning.” About half are against gay rallies and same-sex marriage; almost a third think homosexuality is the result of “a sickness or a psychological trauma,” the Levada surveys show.
Russia’s widespread hostility to homosexuality is shared by the political and religious elite.
Lawmakers have accused gays of decreasing Russia’s already low birth rates and said they should be barred from government jobs, undergo forced medical treatment or be exiled. Orthodox activists criticized U.S. company PepsiCo for using a “gay” rainbow on cartons of its dairy products. An executive with a government-run television network said in a nationally televised talk show that gays should be prohibited from donating blood, sperm and organs for transplants, while after death their hearts should be burned or buried.
Protests against the ban by members of Russia’s LGBT community have been met with harassment and violence: On Sunday, demonstrators were pelted with snowballs by an anti-gay mob. In October, a gay nightclub in Moscow was attacked on Coming Out Day by masked hooligans who beat, kicked and sprayed mace at patrons.
“I love Russia, but I want another Russia,” says openly gay clerk Bagaudin Abduljalilov. “It’s a pity I can’t spend my life on creative projects instead of banging my head against the wall and repeating, `I’m normal, I’m normal.’ “