International Community Must Confront Putin and Russia on Anti-Gay Legislation

russia-gay-pride-putin

There’s been quite a bit of talk recently about Russia’s anti-gay “propaganda” legislation–signed into law on June 30 by President Vladimir Putin–because of this month’s World Athletics Championships in Moscow and the upcoming Winter Olympics in Sochi as well as Edward Snowden’s decision to defect to Russia. Naturally there is concern about discrimination against gay athletes and coaches at international sporting events; and Snowden has been criticized because his supposed passion for human rights is belied by his embrace of Putin and his disastrous human rights record.

Here’s an explanation of the new law at PolicyMic: Russia’s Anti-Gay Law, Spelled Out in Plain English.

On June 30 this year, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed into law a bill banning the “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations to minors,” thus opening a new, dark chapter in the history of gay rights in Russia. The law caps a period of ferocious activities by the Russian government aimed at limiting the rights of the country’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex people.

The violations of fundamental, constitutionally protected rights of Russia’s gay citizens have included multiple bans on gay pride parades in Moscow and other cities, hefty fines to gay rights groups accused of acting as a “foreign agent,” denial of registration to nongovernmental organizations, and regional laws banning the propaganda of homosexuality to minors, which served as a basis for the federal law enacted by Mr. Putin and unanimously passed by the State Duma. Against this backdrop, violent attacks on gays or “suspect gays” are becoming commonplace.

The federal law is spelled out in Article 6.21 of the Code of the Russian Federation on Administrative Offenses.

Here is what Article 6.21 actually says:

Propaganda is the act of distributing information among minors that 1) is aimed at the creating nontraditional sexual attitudes, 2) makes nontraditional sexual relations attractive, 3) equates the social value of traditional and nontraditional sexual relations, or 4) creates an interest in nontraditional sexual relations.

If you’re Russian. Individuals engaging in such propaganda can be fined 4,000 to 5,000 rubles (120-150 USD), public officials are subject to fines of 40,000 to 50,000 rubles (1,200-1,500 USD), and registered organizations can be either fined (800,000-1,000,000 rubles or 24,000-30,000 USD) or sanctioned to stop operations for 90 days. If you engage in the said propaganda in the media or on the internet, the sliding scale of fines shifts: for individuals, 50,000 to 100,000 rubles; for public officials, 100,000 to 200,000 rubles, and for organizations, from one million rubles or a 90-day suspension.

If you’re an alien. Foreign citizens or stateless persons engaging in propaganda are subject to a fine of 4,000 to 5,000 rubles, or they can be deported from the Russian Federation and/or serve 15 days in jail. If a foreigner uses the media or the internet to engage in propaganda, the fines increase to 50,000-100,000 rubles or a 15-day detention with subsequent deportation from Russia.

As PolicyMic points out, the language of the law is so ambiguous that it is difficult to predict how it will be enforced or how it will be applied to foreigners. According to HuffPo, visitors to Russia should be concerned.

Bad news for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) travelers hoping to visit Russia, as foreign tourists will now be subjected to the same “gay propaganda” fines and sentences as residents.

Travel site Skift reports that the new law, signed into law by Russian President Vladimir Putin on June 30, contains a provision that allows the government to arrest and detain gay (or “pro-gay”) foreigners for up to 14 days before they would then be expelled from Russia.

As far as what is considered “pro-gay,” the laws specifics are somewhat vague, butCanadian site Travel and Escape suggests “gay-affirmative” speech, displaying a rainbow flag and same-sex partners holding hands are among the prohibited actions.

A few days later, on July 3, Putin signed another law that bans adoption of Russian children by foreign same-sex couples or by any unmarried couple or single parent in a country that recognizes gay marriage.

Today Harvey Fierstein published an op-ed in The New York Times on Russia’s Anti-Gay Crackdown, in which he reports there are rumors that Putin will soon

sign an edict that would remove children from their own families if the parents are either gay or lesbian or suspected of being gay or lesbian. The police would have the authority to remove children from adoptive homes as well as from their own biological parents.

Fierstein dismisses claims that these recently passed laws are designed to protect children from pedophiles. There is no scientific evidence to show that pedophiles are homosexuals; in fact research shows that the overwhelming majority of pedophiles are heterosexual males. So what is the explanation for the Putin’s war against gays?

Mr. Putin’s true motives lie elsewhere. Historically this kind of scapegoating is used by politicians to solidify their bases and draw attention away from their failing policies, and no doubt this is what’s happening in Russia. Counting on the natural backlash against the success of marriage equality around the world and recruiting support from conservative religious organizations, Mr. Putin has sallied forth into this battle, figuring that the only opposition he will face will come from the left, his favorite boogeyman.

Mr. Putin’s campaign against lesbian, gay and bisexual people is one of distraction, a strategy of demonizing a minority for political gain taken straight from the Nazi playbook. Can we allow this war against human rights to go unanswered? Although Mr. Putin may think he can control his creation, history proves he cannot: his condemnations are permission to commit violence against gays and lesbians. In May a young gay man was murdered in the city of Volgograd. He was beaten, his body violated with beer bottles, his clothing set on fire, his head crushed with a rock. This is most likely just the beginning.

Yet, so far the international community hasn’t done much to push back against Putin’s anti-gay campaign. As Fierstein writes, “this must change,” and the upcoming Winter Olympics provides the perfect opportunity for enlightened government to put pressure on Putin and his regime.

Today, one gay reporter, James Kirchick, did his part to call attention to Russia’s repressive new anti-gay laws when he appeared on Russia Today, the state-owned TV station, ostensibly to discuss the Bradley Manning sentence. It turned into quite a scene.

According to The Washington Free Beacon, Kirchick was taken off the air when he refused to stop talking about Russia’s anti-gay laws and focus on Bradley Manning.

“A quick explanation now for the beginning of our coverage of the Bradley Manning sentences,” one host said later in the program. “We invited a guest on to discuss the fate of the whistleblower, but he used the chance to discuss his views on other unrelated issues and that’s why we had to take him off air. We would like to say sorry for any confusion caused.”

RT also refused to continue Kirchick’s car service, according to the reporter.

“True fact: (RT) just called taxi company that took me to studio to drop me off on the side of the highway on way to Stockholm airport,” Kirchick wrote on Twitter Wednesday morning following his appearance on the network.

This is an open thread, but any comments on the content of this post will be much appreciated.


Barack Obama’s Father Planned to Give Him Up for Adoption

Barack Obama Sr and Ann Dunham

The dreams of President Barack Obama’s father apparently included turning him over to the Salvation Army to be adopted, according to a new book by Boston Globe reporter Sally Jacobs. Jacobs found records showing that in 1961, before his son was born, Barack Obama Sr.,

a sophomore at the University of Hawaii, had come under scrutiny by federal immigration officials who were concerned that he had more than one wife. When he was questioned by the school’s foreign student adviser, the 24-year-old Obama insisted that he had divorced his wife in his native Kenya. Although his new wife, Ann Dunham, was five months pregnant with their child – who would be called Barack Obama II – Obama declared that they intended to put their child up for adoption.

“Subject got his USC wife ‘Hapai’ [Hawaiian for pregnant] and although they were married they do not live together and Miss Dunham is making arrangements with the Salvation Army to give the baby away,’’ according to a memo describing the conversation with Obama written by Lyle H. Dahling, an administrator in the Honolulu office of what was then called the US Immigration and Naturalization Service. Wondering how to get a permanent residency in the U.S.? Immigrant Investor Visa Program which is also known as the EB5 Visa is the answer. For more details, visit inc.com.

Obviously this never happened, but we do know that Obama’s father eventually went off to grad school at Harvard, abandoning his wife and child. According to Jacobs,

…his statement provides a unique glimpse into the relationship between the president’s parents and the fragility of his connection to the father whom he would little know.

Dahling’s memo, dated April 12, 1961, is one of dozens of documents in the elder Obama’s “alien’’ file released by the Department of Homeland Security in response to a Freedom of Information Act request made in the course of research on a biography of Obama’s father. Obama was visiting the United States on a foreign student visa which required him to apply for an annual extension of his stay during the five years he was attending US colleges.

The memo advised that officials should continue to monitor the senior Obama’s personal life, and raised concerns about his behavior, noting that the previous summer he had been warned about his “playboy ways.’’

Former WH press secretary Robert Gibbs told Jacobs that President Obama had no knowledge of his father’s discussions with the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) or of the INS memo. Gibbs said the White House had not contacted the Salvation Army to see whether Obama’s mother had spoken to them about adoption. But Jacob notes that Obama had speculated in his book Dreams of My Father that his parents might have considered giving him up for adoption because their was a mixed race marriage in a time when that could lead to social ostracism.

Jacobs writes that Immigration officials also considered charging Barack Obama Sr with bigamy or polygamy:

Noting that Obama appeared to have a wife in Kenya and another in Hawaii, Dahling raised the possibility in his memo of charging Obama with polygamy or bigamy in order to get a deportation order against him. In the end, he suggested they keep an eye on him.

“Recommend that Subject be closely questioned before another extension is granted – and denial be considered,’’ Dahling concluded. “If his USC wife tries to petition for him, make sure an investigation is conducted as to the bona fide of the marriage.’’

But the senior Obama soon moved on to Harvard, leaving his wife and child to fend for themselves.