US gay marriage ruling unleashes debate in Russia

Tuesday, June 30th, 2015. Filed under: World News

By Anna Smolchenko

  Members and supporters of the LGBT (Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender)  community take part in a May Day rally in Saint Petersburg on May 1, 2015  (photo image courtesy of http://www.democraticunderground.com/)


Members and supporters of the LGBT (Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender)
community take part in a May Day rally in Saint Petersburg on May 1, 2015
(photo image courtesy of http://www.democraticunderground.com/)

Moscow, Russia  – The US Supreme Court’s move to legalize gay marriages triggered heated debate in Russia on Sunday, with one MP saying Facebook should be blocked while a senator urged the adoption of the US army’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

In a show of support for the US Supreme Court’s historic decision, Facebook introduced a function allowing users to decorate their profiles with the rainbow flag of the gay rights movement and many Russians added a rainbow filter to their photos.

Their opponents immediately came up with a counter move, superimposing a Russian tri-color against their pictures.

Homophobia remains widespread in the country, and almost no public figures have come out as gay.

Since coming to the Kremlin for a third term in 2012, President Vladimir Putin has forcefully promoted traditional values, seeking to paint Russia as an antithesis to the West.

In 2013, he signed off on a hugely controversial law banning the promotion or display of homosexuality in front of minors.

The US Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage on Friday ignited fresh debate in Russia which is locked in confrontation with the West over Ukraine.

Lawmaker Vitaly Milonov said Facebook should be shut down in Russia while senator Konstantin Dobrynin said it is Milonov who should be banned.

Dobrynin, deputy head of constitutional legislation committee in the parliament’s upper house, said it was necessary to reduce the level of aggression in society towards gays.

“The most important thing is to immediately reduce the intensity of aggression towards sexual minorities,” he wrote in a blog post.

He said there should be no place in politics for “quasi- politicians” speculating on the fight against gays.

“Because it them – and not gays – who are a direct and overt threat to Russia’s security and the state should fight them.”

He said Russia should legalise the US army’s “don’t ask, don’t tell policy as a compromise measure to reconcile conservative and liberal Russians.

“Don’t ask, don’t tell” was the US policy on military service by gays and lesbians. The stipulation was repealed in 2011.

‘Proud to be Russian’

The unusual proposal came after Saint Petersburg lawmaker Milonov said he would formally request Russia’s telecoms oversight agency to shut down Facebook in Russia.

“It is a crude violation of Russian legislation. Facebook has no age limits, it is impossible to control how many minors are there,” Milonov said on radio Saturday evening.

“That is why it would be completely normal to pull the plug on Facebook in Russia.”

Milonov, who sits in the regional parliament of Saint Petersburg, introduced a law in the city banning “propaganda” of gay relationships to minors before a similar federal law was adopted and came into force in 2013, sparking international controversy.

Milonov said he would petition Roskomnadzor, Russia’s telecoms oversight agency, and if that does not help he would appeal to the FSB security service and President Vladimir Putin personally.

“I would call on thousands of people and we will write to the FSB and Putin,” he said.

Milonov’s words drew disdain from activists, and a picture of Milonov superimposed against the rainbow flag was making the rounds on social media.

To celebrate the US Supreme Court’s ruling, the White House was on Friday lit up in rainbow colours.

Some gay activists said that Russia, too, would one day uphold gay people’s right to marry, but not necessarily in their lifetime.

“Most likely I will not live to see the day when some democratic, honestly-elected president illuminates the Kremlin in rainbow colors for one day,” journalist and activist Anton Krasovsky said on Facebook.

“There will be happiness. For sure. Because love wins,” wrote Elena Kostyuchenko, the openly gay correspondent for Russia’s top opposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta.

Some of their opponents added a Russian flag-coloured filter to their online profiles.

“I am a Russian and proud of it,” wrote one such man, Rishat Shigapov.

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