Homophobic laws in Russia gain momentum

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Former Republican member of the Michigan House of Representatives Dave Agema came out in support of new legislation in Russia that works to restrict “pro-gay propaganda”, making it illegal to promote or distribute material that claims that homosexual relationships are equal in terms of legitimacy with heterosexual ones.

“Read their law. Common sense in Russia,” Agema reportedly posted on his personal Facebook feed along with a link providing information on the subject.

Many GOP members are incensed over the comments, including Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, who has publicly apologized for Agema’s racist and homophobic comments many times before.

For any member of the United States political world to promote the legal changes going on in Russia is outrageous; to understand why, one must understand a bit of Russian history along with the cultural customs in the country.

In the immediate years following the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991, many Russian laws were considerably liberal, decriminalizing homosexual relationships which were previously illegal under Soviet rule. Ever since the fall, though, Russia’s government has experienced a steady decline in tolerance which has become increasingly apparent in its legislative decisions.

The law appears to be less abrasive in writing; the ban on “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations”—otherwise known as “relationships not conducive to procreation”. The law specifically prohibits this propagation toward minors, emphasizing that the idea of a proper lifestyle must be ingrained in the minds of its children.

As if this concept were not backward enough, the law has far more harmful effects in practice. Many homosexual Russian families fear that their children may be taken away at the hands of the governments; the children are, after all, technically minors who are influenced by the homosexual lifestyle. According to CNN, Russian legislator Alexei Zhuravlyov proposed a law in 2013 that would deny homosexual parents custodial rights completely, but this bill fortunately did not make it past Russia’s parliament.

Despite vehement protests all over Russia, these laws show no signs of slowing down, and Putin does not seem perturbed by the major outcry of LGBT and tolerant straight Russians alike. Unless progress is made, it is quite clear that the quality of life for the homosexual citizens of Russia will only decline.

Though clearly those on the outside looking in can do little in the way of blocking these laws, I believe that the world has a humanitarian obligation to these people to speak out. Actor Hugh Laurie proposed a boycott on Russian vodka in retaliation to the laws via Twitter, proposing with a bit of tongue-in-cheek humor that they instead switch to Polish brands, much to the offense of the Russian public. Though such a boycott would be unlikely to happen on a global scale, those in opposition to Russia’s disturbing new legislation would do well to make themselves heard in any way possible, even if that just means refusing to purchase Absolut vodka.

Only time will tell how extreme these laws will become, but with rising international tension over this issue rise as the Sochi winter Olympics approaches, the world had better decide its stance sooner rather than later and do what it must to uphold the rights of all humans.

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