The Witch-Hunt Against Gays Has Begun
Published: February 6, 2013 (Issue # 1745)
On Jan. 25, the State Duma passed in the first reading a bill prohibiting display of “homosexual propaganda” among minors. The bill stipulates that an individual found guilty of violating the law be fined up to 5,000 rubles ($167) and that a legal entity face a fine of up to 500,000 ($16,667) rubles. During the vote, gay rights activists protested outside the Duma. Orthodox Christian supporters of the law appeared, attacked the gay activists and threw snowballs, dirt and paint bombs at them — all under the eyes of the police officers standing nearby. And when the police finally took action, the attackers went free. Instead, 20 gay protesters were arrested.
For the bill to become law, it must go through two more readings in the Duma. It was sent back for more work so that the meaning of the vague phrase “homosexual propaganda” could be clarified. So while all the implications of the law are still unclear, two things are certain even now.
First, the bill is unconstitutional. Mikhail Fedotov, head of the Council of Human Rights, said in an interview with Interfax, “If we say that propaganda of heterosexuality is allowed, then we immediately contradict the constitutional guarantee of equality among citizens, since the rights of a person belonging to a sexual minority are impinged upon in contrast with the rights of a person belonging to the sexuality majority.”
Second, regardless of how “ homosexual propaganda” is ultimately defined in the bill, the legislation, if passed, will be applied much more broadly and affect more than homosexuals. An analogous law on the books in St. Petersburg makes it a misdemeanor to “propagandize sodomy, lesbianism, bisexuality and transgenderism” to minors.
As a result, St. Petersburg is renowned as the European capital of homophobia, where measures are periodically taken to take rock musicians to court — Madonna, Lady Gaga and Rammstein — or to block MTV. The Duma’s Committee on Family, Women and Children goes even further in its recommendations and demands a ban even on “performances involving homosexuals in places accessible to children.” This would produce a blacklist of gay actors and musicians who would be banned from television screens before 11 p.m. Who knows how far these state homophobes may go? Perhaps as far as banning Oscar Wilde’s fairy tales and the music of Pyotr Tchaikovsky.
It is certain that the legislation will spark a nationwide witch-hunt against public figures, journalists, teachers and others. Ilya Kolmanovsky was almost fired from a lycee where he teaches biology after school administrators received a number of letters, ostensibly from parents of his students, accusing him of homosexuality. Kolmanovsky had to prove that he isn’t gay and that he is married with two daughters. He insisted that he was the subject of a smear campaign simply because he defended gay rights.
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