Russia has been cracking down on gays and lesbians lately, with harsh legislature making it potentially dangerous to be LGTB-identified in the country. President Putin has signed three anti-gay bills into law, with more to come.
He is supported in his anti-gay mission by the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, who thinks that the recognition of same-sex unions by Western countries is a portent of doom. The Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill said on Sunday after the service in Red Square's Kazan Cathedral, "This is a very dangerous apocalyptic symptom, and we must do everything in our powers to ensure that sin is never sanctioned in Russia by state law, because that would mean that the nation has embarked on a path of self-destruction." Patriarch Kirill has previously gained attention for his directive to monks to avoid the "sinful and tempting" internet.
The religious leader called on Russians to block the passage of marriage equality laws, stating, "We face enormous temptations when countries start approving sin and codifying it into law in order to justify it." Putin seems to share his views, as the President has embarked on a shocking campaign against gays and lesbians living in Russia, as Harvey Fierstein explained in a New York Times op-ed on Sunday.
Mr. Putin’s campaign against lesbian, gay and bisexual people is one of distraction, a strategy of demonizing a minority for political gain taken straight from the Nazi playbook. Can we allow this war against human rights to go unanswered? Although Mr. Putin may think he can control his creation, history proves he cannot: his condemnations are permission to commit violence against gays and lesbians.
On July 3, a law banned the adoption of Russian-born children to gay couples as well as all couples or single parents living in countries where marriage equality exists. Despite the upcoming 2014 Winter Olympics, Putin signed another law allowing police officers to arrest foreign nationals and tourists they suspect of being gay, lesbian, or "pro-gay," and detain them for up to two weeks. The worryingly vague language suggests that anyone simply accused of being gay, including Olympic athletes, can be thrown in jail.
Yet another anti-gay bill classified "homosexual propaganda" as pornography, which means that anyone arguing for equality is subject to arrest and fines, even judges, lawyers, and lawmakers.
It doesn't stop there. Rumors say that Putin is about to sign an edict that would split families apart if passed. The bill would give the police the authority to remove children from their families if the parents were suspected or being gay or lesbian.
Putin faces protests for his intolerant legislation, but public opinion may unfortunately be on his side, according to a recent poll conducted by the All-Russian Public Opinion Center (VTSIOM), who said in June that 54% of respondents believed that homosexuality should be banned and criminalized. 88% supported the recent laws. However, it must be noted that VTSIOM is a state-owned polling agency that was taken over by the Kremlin in 2003.
The 2014 Winter Olympics are scheduled to be held in Sochi, but these new laws are worrying to many who plan to visit Russia in order to see the Games. Human Rights Watch published a letter to the Director General of the International Olympic Committee expressing its reservations about the harsh legislation, stating, "This draft law is clearly incompatible with the Olympic Charter’s promotion of “human dignity,” as well as a blatant violation of Russia’s international legal obligations to guarantee non-discrimination and respect for freedom of expression."