Russia's Anti-Gay Crackdown

Published: July 21, 2013

RUSSIA’S president, Vladimir V. Putin, has declared war on homosexuals. So far, the world has mostly been silent

On July 3, Mr. Putin signed a law banning the adoption of Russian-born children not only to gay couples but also to any couple or single parent living in any country where marriage equality exists in any form.

A few days earlier, just six months before Russia hosts the 2014 Winter Games, Mr. Putin signed a law allowing police officers to arrest tourists and foreign nationals they suspect of being homosexual, lesbian or “pro-gay” and detain them for up to 14 days. Contrary to what the International Olympic Committee says, the law could mean that any Olympic athlete, trainer, reporter, family member or fan who is gay — or suspected of being gay, or just accused of being gay — can go to jail.

Earlier in June, Mr. Putin signed yet another antigay bill, classifying “homosexual propaganda” as pornography. The law is broad and vague, so that any teacher who tells students that homosexuality is not evil, any parents who tell their child that homosexuality is normal, or anyone who makes pro-gay statements deemed accessible to someone underage is now subject to arrest and fines. Even a judge, lawyer or lawmaker cannot publicly argue for tolerance without the threat of punishment.

Finally, it is rumored that Mr. Putin is about to sign an edict that would remove children from their own families if the parents are either gay or lesbian or suspected of being gay or lesbian. The police would have the authority to remove children from adoptive homes as well as from their own biological parents.

Not surprisingly, some gay and lesbian families are already beginning to plan their escapes from Russia.

Why is Mr. Putin so determined to criminalize homosexuality? He has defended his actions by saying that the Russian birthrate is diminishing and that Russian families as a whole are in danger of decline. That may be. But if that is truly his concern, he should be embracing gay and lesbian couples who, in my world, are breeding like proverbial bunnies. These days I rarely meet a gay couple who aren’t raising children.

And if Mr. Putin thinks he is protecting heterosexual marriage by denying us the same unions, he hasn’t kept up with the research. Studies from San Diego State University compared homosexual civil unions and heterosexual marriages in Vermont and found that the same-sex relationships demonstrate higher levels of satisfaction, sexual fulfillment and happiness. (Vermont legalized same-sex marriages in 2009, after the study was completed.)

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