Over the past several months, anti-gay laws in Russia have gained attention worldwide, particularly in the United States and other countries with marriage equality laws in place. In addition to outrageous discrimination against the LGBT population in Russia, these laws will impact LGBT citizens of other countries who visit Russia (and anyone that law-enforcing officials deem to be suspect of homosexuality) and anyone from a country with marriage equality who wishes to adopt a Russian-born child.
Russia’s most recent anti-gay laws
Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, signed a bill into law just last month banning the adoption of Russian born children to same-sex couples and unmarried individuals from a country where marriage equality exists in any form. Putin also signed a law allowing officials to arrest visitors from other countries suspected of being gay, lesbian, or “pro-gay.” These laws followed previous anti-gay legislation in Russia, such as laws which ban promotion of homosexual behavior and “propaganda” of nontraditional sexual relationships/identities among minors, intended to prevent minors from having access to materials or media that may promote acceptance of homosexuality or gender nonconformity.
What’s next for Russia?
Russian law also prohibits any protests or public dissention of the Orthodox tradition, which is thought to be the foundation of anti-gay sentiments in Russia. The price of advocacy is up to three years in prison. Russian LGBT individuals and families are already making plans to potentially flee the country. They fear that future laws will allow their children to be taken from their homes.
Advocacy in the United States
As citizens of a country with at least some marriage equality laws, Americans have begun to speak out against the clear discrimination and injustice in Russia. President Barack Obama spoke out on “The Tonight Show” this month, stating “…when it comes to universal rights, when it comes to people’s basic freedoms, that whether you are discriminating on the basis of race, religion, gender or sexual orientation, you are violating the basic morality that I think should transcend every country.” Well-known supporters who have spoken out about DOMA and marriage equality have also been vocal about the injustice in Russia, including some winter Olympic athletes who will be headed to Russia for the 2014 games.
Does advocacy work?
Although the statistics in Russia can be discouraging (According to a Pew Research Center poll, about 74% of Russians do not believe homosexuality should be accepted by society), it’s important to remember that in 1996, only 27% of Americans supported marriage equality. It wasn’t until 2011 that those in favor exceeded those in opposition. Advocacy and education are key in the battle for universal human rights.
About the guest blogger
Erica Garceau, M.S., LMFT is the Outreach Coordinator and a Staff Therapist for IntraSpectrum Counseling, a group private practice in Chicago that specializes in the LGBTQI community. She specializes in couples and family therapy. Follow IntraSpectrum Counseling on Twitter and Facebook.