If you are determined to find the metaphorical silver lining in a dreadful situation, you could say that the recent passing of draconian anti-gay laws in Russia had the unintentional and positive effect of raising international awareness about gay rights and forcing members of the international community to take a public stance on the issue of LGBT equality. Two of the most prominent instances of protest against the law, which was signed on June 30 by Vladimir Putin and bans the dissemination of information on homosexuality to minors, include the government of Amsterdam’s decision to hang rainbow flags to mark a visit by Russia’s president, and President Obama’s open criticism of the new law on the Jay Leno show. But while the situation in Russia has left Western leaders feeling disheartened and apprehensive, many countries are deciding not to take the Russian route and to instead implement laws that improve the lives of our LGBT brothers and sisters.
Some analysts believe that the recent improvements in countries like Jamaica, Brazil, Malawi, Singapore, and Uruguay represent the interconnected relationship between human rights improvements in some parts of the world and the removal of rights in others. In countries in which the government is ideologically opposed to Western liberalism (Russia, for example), gay rights are often viewed as an imposition by external powers and an affront to the conservative and often religious identities and traditions of the populations in question. As countries like the United States and the United Kingdom legalize gay marriage and adoption with high levels of popular support, people in other parts of the world fear that granting even the most basic rights to the LGBT population will lead to the complete overhaul of society as they know it. According to this logic, granting the LGBT population equal rights will soon lead to the complete destruction of the nuclear family, the church, and the patriarchal hierarchies that many leaders and citizens alike are attached to and depend on as a frame of reference within their communities.
The aforementioned countries, however, are examples of traditionally conservative societies in which the regimes in power either openly pursue rights for the LGBT population or permit the activities of equal-rights activists to develop without official opposition. Unsurprisingly, these countries all have a vested interest in fostering positive relations with the West. While government ideology, international relations, and civil society’s support for LGBT rights do not always intersect perfectly, it is more likely that activists and lawmakers will succeed in passing laws that promote equality if the regime in question is motivated to appear tolerant and democratic. This has allowed certain high-profile politicians to openly support the repeal of anti-gay laws and allowed some public figures to come out of the closet in deeply homophobic societies. While many find the West’s tradition of exporting its values abhorrent, this is one instance in which liberalism may have a positive impact on the lives of citizens around the world.