According to a bill just signed into law, If I lived in Russia’s second most populated city, I could be heavily fined simply for writing this. The new law, as signed by Governor Georgy Poltavchenko, would make it illegal to engage in any activity, including reading, writing, speaking or reporting on pro-LGBT rights. Violators could be required to pay up to $16,700 upon conviction.
From San Diego Gay and Lesbian News:
Human rights activists say the law will have a chilling effect on the LGBT community in Russia by equating speech about gay and transgender issues to committing acts of pedophilia. In St. Petersburg, Russia’s most cosmopolitan city, home to some of the country’s most established gay rights organizations, it is now a criminal offense punishable by heavy fines to publish or distribute anything LGBT-related.
The Russian Orthodox Church is attempting to take parts of the law national, making it illegal to disseminate “gay propaganda” to minors. While it could be argued that distributing any sort of sexually-based propaganda to minors should be illegal, as we’ve seen in this country, the word, “propaganda” is highly subjective. The childhood staples of SpongeBob SquarePants, Sesame Street, and the Girl Scouts have all been accused of spreading LGBT propaganda. There is a world of difference between porn and a story of a couple of friends who happen to spend a lot of time together.
The General Manager of Coming Out, Polina Savchenko, an LGBT organization in St. Petersburg, issued this statement:
“Today it became known that the governor of St. Petersburg Georgiy Poltavchenko signed the homophobic law, imposing administrative fines on the so-called “propaganda of sodomy, lesbianism, bisexuality, transgenderism” and paedophilia to minors.
“Authors of the law maintain that it is designed to “protect children from information that can harm their physical, intellectual, moral, and
spiritual development”. The term “propaganda” is defined as any uncontrolled and targeted distribution of information through any
accessible means to minors that can [...] form an incorrect perception of social equivalence between traditional and non-traditional conjugal
relations”. Authorities project “traditional values” and clerical rhetoric onto politics, and prioritize “interests of majority” over the value of
human individuality. We realize that today, fascist-like rhetoric in Russia is becoming basis for legislative activity.
“In fact, this law has little to do with protecting minors. Today, neither homosexual people, nor human rights defenders, nor lawyers can answer the question of how this law is going to be applied in practice, due to its vague nature and non-legal terminology. To talk about existence of homosexuality, to publicly denounce homophobic violence, to develop sense of self-awareness and dignity in homosexual people, to promote tolerance – all of these acts can fall under the “propaganda” law. This law will serve directly to further isolate and marginalize the gay community and encourage hate towards a social group.
“60 years ago philosopher and founder of totalitarianism theory, Hannah Arendt, said that in a totalitarian state, citizens are ‘either victims or
executioners and the movement by its ideology seeks to prepare them to fill either role.’ Handing out of roles has begun: Russian authorities
legalized discrimination of homosexuals. What will come next?
“We are convinced that no authority can deprive people of their right to dignity, to respect of private and family life, to freedom of expression
and to protection from discrimination and violence. We are offended and outraged by this act by city authorities and will continue fighting for
the rights of LGBT citizens until the barbaric law is repealed.”
How far are we from laws like this in our own country? If many in the GOP have their way, probably not far at all. The First Amendment protects free speech, but when you throw in the word, “children,” a new set of standards seems to come into play. As shown by our willingness to let the Catholic Church lead a public policy debate on birth control, or allowing the Mormon Church to fund anti-gay marriage initiatives in outsides states, while maintaining their tax exempt status, many in our country, including some leaders and potential leaders, are willing to let the church legislate. We have a very conservative Supreme Court. A President Romney/Santorum/Gingrich could easily stack the court with judges who agree with his own agenda of the rights of the churches over the rights of the people.
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