Law - Gay, LGBT | Russia | St. Petersburg

State Department Condemns Anti-Gay Legislation In Russia

St.PetersburgnightThe United States' State Department has strongly condemned odious new legislation in St. Petersburg, Russia, which criminalizes the "promotion" of homosexuality among minors.

From the AFP:

"Gay rights are human rights and human rights are gay rights," the State Department said, repeating a declaration by top US diplomat Hillary Clinton.

"We have called on Russian officials to safeguard these freedoms, and to foster an environment which promotes respect for the rights of all citizens."

The St. Petersburg legislation certainly doesn't respect "the rights of all citizens." In fact, it leaves citizens guessing as to what their rights are, vis a vis the law. The legislation bans the promotion of LGBT lifestyles to minors, especially in public, but fails to explain what might constitute "promotion." Anything -- from pride parades to protests to  two women holding hands and appearing to enjoy it -- could, in theory, be illegal, so long as it's public and vaguely gay.

The New Yorker published an essay on the subject:

The sponsor of the bill—it still has to go through two more votes to become law—is Vitaly Milonov, from the ruling United Party. He explained the legislation by saying, “children have to be protected from destructive information.” What that meant was subject to interpretation. According to Milonov, this information could be found in sex-education classes where such values were “advertised,” as well as in the works of that gay cabal—show business. This was not in any way meant to be an intrusion into the personal lives of Petersburgers, Milonov added, but what could he do when his city is drowning under “a wave popularizing sexual perversion”?

Milonov’s colleagues chimed in, lumping sexual assault of a child in with consensual gay sex. “Children maimed by pedophiles jump out of windows, they take their own lives. Pedophilia is an attempt on a child’s life!” one of them said, adding that spreading such propaganda should be a criminal offense. Another deputy, Elena Babich, from the nationalist-crazypants Liberal Democratic party, agreed that the proposed penalties were too light. “What is a three-thousand ruble fine to a pedophile when they are supported by an international community?” (Did she mean show business?)

The legislation, which was rushed through the local parliament, is not unique. A similar law was passed this summer in the northern city of Arkhangelsk, where legislators expressed concern about the effect of gays on the city’s already low birthrates, and in the Ryazan region. But those were the provinces.

St. Petersburg, long Russia’s window to Europe and its bastion of high culture, is both a strange and logical place to pass such a law. For one thing, it was the first place with an L.G.B.T. organization: Kryl’ya (or “wings”) was founded in October 1991, having fought for its creation in the Soviet courts at a time when homosexuality was still criminalized and punishable by five years of hard labor. (That provision, the notorious Article 121, was repealed two years later, in 1993.) Moscow used to have a mayor, Yuri Luzhkov, who denounced homosexuality as “satanic.” St. Petersburg, in contrast, was in some ways the center of organized gay life in Russia: the Russian branch of the I.L.G.A., the international L.G.B.T. rights organization is run out of St. Petersburg; pride parades, long the subject of violent battles with the Moscow authorities (who won’t allow them), have passed through this city peacefully, until this year. Imagine passing an anti-gay law in San Francisco.

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  1. Petersburg is not San Francisco, and hardly the gay capital of Russia. The "pride parades" mentioned haven't been parades in the Western sense, but rather flash-mobs, such as have succeeded in Moscow as well. None were registered or advertised, which is why there was no backlash. When they did try to register, they were forbidden, just like in Moscow.

    There is some gay infrastructure in Petersburg, but not nearly as much as in Moscow. Bastion of high culture? Well, before 1917, maybe. Certainly not in the Soviet period, when all resources were shifted to the capitol.

    Posted by: KevinVT | Nov 26, 2011 1:34:09 PM

  2. so very sad--such a beautiful city

    Posted by: r | Nov 26, 2011 1:50:38 PM

  3. should the state department tack such stands after all didn't the don't say gay say Takei campaign after a similar thing in Tennessee happen

    Posted by: Richard Golden | Nov 26, 2011 4:58:54 PM

  4. @Richard Golden: a part of Hilary Clinton's job as Secretary of State would be to comment on international abuses of human rights and restrictions on freedom of speech and information.
    When such abuses happen domestically in places like Tennessee, I don't think the State Department is so much the "official office" to deal with the problem, except perhaps in the same context that every citizen and government official should denounce abuses of human rights everywhere they occur.

    The manipulative twisting of words in this Russian case is disgusting, as if to suggest that the wide-open assault on the speech rights of gay people (as well as all people who even understand gay issues and would wish to discuss them) has the effect of preventing child abuse.
    It would be like putting forward a law forbidding "the rape of a woman or any discussion of women which regards them as equal humans.".
    A person would have to be extremely ignorant and illogical to think the former has any connection to the latter. But they seem to want to trick the reader into making such an illogical connection so that citizens will be too intimidated to denounce the law's true implications.

    Posted by: Gregv | Nov 26, 2011 6:02:26 PM

  5. Thankyou Mrs. Clinton. I wish I'd voted for you as president. Please tell your boss to get off his homophobic ass on LGBT issues and let American citizens have ENDA enacted and DOMA repealed. It's sad when our Secretary of State can make statements about gay rights in a foreign country, but our current president has to be dragged kicking and screaming to even end DADT.

    Posted by: Brad | Nov 26, 2011 6:17:33 PM

  6. Thanking Hilary Clinton is like thanking her husband for instituting DADT (and everyone did at the time)
    It's offensive and laughable that any branch of the US Fed point a finger anywhere on gay rights issues.
    I think this is more of pulling the log out of ones own eye, before plucking the twig from another.

    Posted by: Ulf Raynor | Nov 26, 2011 6:37:11 PM

  7. Thanks for the great info. I’ll be implementing much of this soon!

    Posted by: essay writing | Nov 26, 2011 7:02:31 PM

  8. I think she deserves a lot of credit, her state department is the most open it has ever been. All to often we forget about what we've got and focus on what we don't, i do it all the time. Let's face it her powers are limited to the state department, not social issues within the US. Her being vocal means something, holding aid because of human rights issues means something. every step matters

    Posted by: George M | Nov 26, 2011 8:20:29 PM

  9. Hillary Clinton is part of the Obama administration. If you think she can just do whatever she wants without approval, you don't understand the system.

    Posted by: KevinVT | Nov 26, 2011 8:43:39 PM

  10. Please explain, exactly what it is she has done again, political rhetoric aside?
    As First Lady she had the ability to wield great influences in gay rights and what we got was 18 years of military witch hunts under DADT.
    Lets face it, as a community we should be following the example of previous activist movements (women/black rights)
    What we need are less people accepting crumbs from those in power and more people who are willing to march down the streets of DC demanding equal rights with us.
    One wonders if Hilary could fit us into her busy schedule?

    Posted by: Ulf Raynor | Nov 26, 2011 9:02:14 PM

  11. "It's sad when our Secretary of State can make statements about gay rights in a foreign country, but our current president has to be dragged kicking and screaming to even end DADT."

    Any statements Hillary Clinton makes as Secretary of State reflect the views of the Obama administration. She is not speaking as President Clinton, she is speaking for President Obama. How is that not clear to some people?

    Posted by: Ernie | Nov 26, 2011 9:37:51 PM

  12. @Ulf: As first lady Hillary had enormous power over gay rights? Umm, no. She tried to "meddle" in health care and got trampled. Gay rights were something that her husband, the president, tried to deal with and we got DADT. Maybe it would be different now, but the Obamas also aren't exactly bending to the "gay agenda." And Hillary has done as much as she can---as others have said, as an alternate voice of the administration.

    There's such a thing as separation of powers. Add to that the lack of power most first ladies have had and you might reconsider. Even Michelle Obama knows that this country remains quite sexist and doesn't really care about the views of people not elected to their positions. Dolly Maddison and Eleanor Roosevelt helped change the mold for first ladies, but not by much. Jackie Kennedy and Nancy Reagan were good at ceremony and fashion---the model that Michelle seems to be following. Speak up too much and you'll be vilified and hurt your husband. It's awful, because the strong 20th century first ladies learned early to just shut up. (I don't consider Nancy Reagan a strong first lady, but she was great at manipulation.)

    Posted by: Paul R | Nov 26, 2011 9:56:17 PM

  13. I understand ULF's anger and he has a point about holding protest and so forth, I just don't think she had that much pull. The state department is more open now then it was under Rice. So I thank her, and still wish she'd run!!!

    Posted by: George M | Nov 26, 2011 10:26:09 PM

  14. Gee, it would be kind of nice if the Obama administration would say or better yet DO something about all the anti-gay hatred being fomented by the right wing in America, too. And I don't mean Obama's usual waffling ("God's in the mix," "still evolving," etc.). I mean a clear, unambiguous stand for a) the constitution and b) simple decency. Sniping at laws on the other side of the world is easy. Telling the Michigan legislature how vile their bullying-is-okay bill is? Guess not.

    Posted by: jomicur | Nov 27, 2011 10:17:24 AM

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