St. Petersburg is getting closer to signing into law the notorious “anti-gay propaganda bill” [ru]. On February 8, 2012, lawmakers approved it on its delayed second reading, and, according to AllOut.com's Russia action page, the vote on the third – and final – reading is to take place next week.
Coming Out, a St. Petersburg-based LGBT rights NGO, wrote this about the possible consequences of the law's adoption:
[…] If this law is passed, Russian LGBT will live in fear of punishment just for being open about sexual orientation in their social environment. It paves the way to legalized discrimination, justifies violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people. Moreover, under the pretense of protecting minors, this law in fact will lead to further isolation and greater number of suicides by homosexual adolescents in a country that is already leading in the numbers of teenage suicides. […]
The article cited above also has photos and video from a mini-protest that took place in front of St. Petersburg's Legislative Assembly building on Feb. 8. One protester, who ended up being detained by police, held a poster that said, “Hitler started with anti-gay laws”:
British author and actor Stephen Fry (@stephenfry) posted this comment on Twitter, referring to the Russian composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, who was homosexual, and linking to AllOut.com's appeal, “TELL RUSSIA: NO GAY GAG ORDER”:
Hell's teeth. Something must be done to stop these fantastical monsters. Will talking about Tchaikovsky be banned? http://www.allout.org/en/actions/russia_call
LJ user arzamaskaya ended her post about the lawmakers’ initiative with this serious-sounding mock appeal [ru]:
[…] Somebody, do introduce sanctions against us [Russia] at last.
LJ user mc-leesnick linked to a Russian-language news item about Stephen Fry's reaction, adding [ru] that Russia, among other things, is also a country where “concrete facts of election fraud are declared ‘speculation’ before an investigation begins” and where “stealing from the state budget isn't punished but encouraged.”
In the comments section, a rather typical exchange took place between the author of the blog and a reader:
plurlife: There are, of course, many other problems that no one is taking care of. But here we are talking about propaganda and underaged [kids], so to me everything seems logical enough. If you want to love someone of your own gender, do so, but don't make noise about it in the streets and don't hold gay parades. This, however, has to be in the subconscious, not in the legislation.
mc_leesnick: Listen, what's the problem with gay parades? Seriously: what is the problem?
plurlife: The problem is that children see it, they live with it and learn from it, and it becomes normal for them. And the problem is also that after gay parades, mass beatings of such “fun guys” takes place, which is also not very normal – people shouldn't be beaten up because of their orientation. I'm not a homophobe, or whatever you call it, I just don't understand why it is necessary to loudly announce that you're a homosexual, a transsexual, a lesbian, a drag queen? Do not try to convince people that it's normal – no matter how much they want it, it's never going to be normal. […] I don't call it a disorder and I don't think they should be locked and re-made, […], it's just that I don't see a point in such demonstrations – only problems. If even just [a Muslim prayer performed in public causes people to overreact], then what do you expect from homosexuals with their parades.
Another reader, LJ user kuzyabuster, echoed Stephen Fry's irony – and mentioned the lack of adequate response from the city authorities to the truly serious and often life-threatening problem that St. Petersburg's residents have to face every winter:
I can imagine trucks taking out of St. Petersburg the works of [Yukio Mishima], Stephen Fry, biographies of [Alexander the Great], Tchaikovsky, Oscar Wilde […]… Would be better if they were taking snow and icicles out…
Russian journalist Yelena Kostyuchenko is not new to explaining the LGBT community's legal demands to her less knowledgeable compatriots. In May 2011, she wrote a powerful and popular post [ru] about her reasons to attend Moscow Pride 2011, and Global Voices translated parts of it in this text about yet another annual attempt to hold the event.
On February 8, following the St. Petersburg vote, Kostyuchenko (@mirrorsbreath) had a quick – and also quite typical – Twitter conversation with user @vakurov (Aleksandr Vakurov, who describes himself as a “psychoanalyst” and “business consultant”), parts of which are translated from Russian below:
@vakurov: […] What's wrong with it? It's the propaganda that's getting banned, not homosexuality.
@mirrorsbreath: […] Propaganda of homosexuality doesn't exist. In reality, the law stops the work of LGBT organizations, introduces censorship into the mass media and culture.
@vakurov: […] Obviously, I'm not getting something. Don't I have the right to protect my children from the harmful homosexual ideology?
@mirrorsbreath: […] Homosexuality doesn't have an ideology. It's a trait that 5-7% of the population are born with. Relax.
@vakurov: […] No problem. Just don't spoil my appetite. Many people have bad breath – and they aren't demanding special rights.
@mirrorsbreath: […] You are very spiritual, I can see it right away. We do not need special rights – we need equal rights. Do you feel the difference?
@vakurov: […] What inequality are you talking about? Then how about the rights of pedophiles, drug traffickers, rapers, drug addicts? о_0
LJ user vg36 believes [ru] that the new law, if adopted, might affect not just the local LGBT community, but members of the opposition in general:
Until the Russian Federation has learned how to block internet access, the law banning [“gay propaganda”] is ridiculous. But does anyone seriously think that it only targets the Russian LGBT community? […]
They used to send [people dressed up/posing as gays] with rainbow flags to opposition rallies in order to discredit the protesters. Now it turns out that most protesters do not mind rainbow flags – so this will be done [fake gays will be sent in] in order to detain and fine [the protesters]. […]
But the opposition has been asleep, as usual, and/or didn't realize that this was another weapon against them. Or they were afraid to oppose a law that might possibly be very popular with the masses, afraid to defend the freedom of speech of an unpopular group. Well. With the opposition like that, [it's not surprising] we get laws like this and the situation in the country is the way it is.