Russian President Vladimir Putin's efforts to dehumanize, criminalize, and silence the country's LGBTQ community and its supporters have been lauded by some members of America's religious right.
The anti-gay bills signed into law by Putin in June and July ban "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations," a carefully crafted statement that will criminalize everything from gay pride rallies to holding hands in public and jeopardizes the safety of the LGBTQ community and its allies.
With the upcoming 2014 Winter Olympics being hosted in Sochi, and despite the International Olympic Committee's statement that they will ensure a non-discriminatory environment, Russia's sports minister Vitaly Mutko has signaled the laws will be enforced during the games.
Allies, activists and essentially anyone with a healthy prefrontal cortex have found this crackdown deeply disturbing and they want Russia to know it. From protests outside the Russian Consulate in San Francisco, to marches in Toronto, to Dan Savage's "dump vodka" campaign- most of the world is speaking loudly against Putin and his draconian agenda, but he's found new friends in some U.S. conservatives.
One of those fine folks is Austin Ruse, president of the Catholic Family and Human Rights (no, really) Institute who pontificates that "you admire some of the things they're doing in Russia against propaganda" but "on the other hand, you know it would be impossible to do that here."
Peter LaBarbera, president of Americans for Truth About Homosexuality, took the dogmatic discourse to another level by stating that "Russians do not want to follow America's reckless and decadent promotion of gender confusion, sexual pervasion and anti-biblical ideologies to youth." Hmm. OK.
Even worse is the World Congress of Families, an international pro-family/anti-gay network that plans to assemble at the Kremlin in September 2014 for its eighth international conference. Larry Jacobs, the network's managing director, revealed in an interview that he believes Russia's "got a problem with marriage rates and fertility, and it doesn't help if you're encouraging non-reproductive behavior." Yup, just blame the population decrease on the gays! Honestly, what other explanation could there possibly be? It couldn't possibly be due to the fact that the Soviet Union collapsed, the repercussions of which were felt in 11 of 19 Western European countries that also experienced a population decrease two decades after the Cold War. Facts, shmacts. Who needs 'em?
It's easy to marginalize communities in the same geographic locations in which they have historically been oppressed. It wasn't until 1993 that homosexuality was decriminalized in Russia and six years after that, "the law that sent gays and lesbians to psychiatric wards was annulled." Now, the newest anti-gay laws threaten the lives and safety of an entire community and its allies just because they are themselves and believe in equality.
As protests and boycotts against Russia continue, it should not be forgotten that we have supporters of Putin's institutionalized bigotry here at home. While Russia continues it's fight against "propaganda" of nontraditional sexual relations, it's clear to most of the world that the only tradition Putin and his anti-gay supporters are interested in maintaining is discrimination against the LGBTQ community.