Putin's War On Gays: A Timeline of Homophobia

ByKatie Halper

Vladimir Putin's draconian and regressive crackdown on Russia's LGBT people is getting (some of) the (negative) attention it deserves from the media, politicians, organizers and even businesses, which are boycotting certain Russian products. Some activists are calling for a boycott of the Winter Olympics to be held in Sochi (though others argue it would be counter productive). But what exactly is Putin doing? Lots of things, which I'll get to in a second. But it was his signing into law a bill against alleged homosexual propaganda that provoked justifiable international outrage. The law defines propaganda as "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."

READRussia's Anti-Gay Law, Spelled Out in Plain English

But as this time-line show, this law was the culmination of several regional bans against "homosexual propaganda" and homophobic policies.

2006: The Ryazan region bans "propaganda of homosexuality among minors," making “promoting homosexuality among juveniles” punishable by fines of up to 20000 rubles ($608). Spoiler Alert: Similar bans will soon be passed in other regions throughout Russia.

2007: Gay rights organizers try to deliver a petition to Moscow's mayor asking to lift the ban on the city's pride parade. They are met by neo-nazis who punch them, kick them and throw eggs at them, as the police stand by and do nothing. Finally, the police intervene and ... arrest the LGBT activists.

2009: Irina Feotova shows posters saying “homosexuality is normal” and “I am proud of my homosexuality” near a high school in Ryazan. She is charged under the "propaganda" ban, convicted and fined 1,500 Rubles ($45).

Jan 2010: The Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation backs the Ryazin law.

Oct 2010: The European Court of Human Rights rules that Russia violated the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms when they prevented gay pride parades in Moscow in 2007, 2008, and 2009.

June 25, 2011: After St Petersburg bans a pride rally, 20 LGBT activists gather an unfurl signs against homophobia. Police arrest and detain 14 of them for "disorderly conduct"  hold an unsanctioned peaceful Police arrest and detain 14 people protesting the pride ban.

January 11, 2012: Three LGBT activists are arrested for holding signs promoting LGBT education in front of the Arkhangelsk Regional Children's Library.

February 28-August 5th, 2012: The Kostroma region passes its very own "propaganda of homosexuality among minors" against both individuals and businesses.  St. Petersburg passes its very own "propaganda of homosexuality among minors" ban against both individuals and businesses. Do does the Magadan region... and the  Novosibirsk region... and the Krasnodar Krai, Samara, Bashkortostan regions... (starting to see a pattern?)

April 12, 2012: An activist is fined for holding signs related to LGBT rights while standing in front of the Saint Petersburg City Administration Building.

May 27, 2012: Approximately 40 LGBT activists who try to unfold a rainbow flag outside the Moscow City Court are arrested and charged with organizing and participating in an unauthorized gathering.

March 28, 2013: Putin tells the government and the Supreme Court to get cracking on amending adoption laws so that foreign same-sex couples cannot adopt Russian orphans. Because Russian orphanages are better than being raised by two people who love each other and really want a child, said no orphan ever.

May 15, 2013: Moscow authorities refuse to allow a gay pride parade because, in the words of a city official, it is imperative to, "work clearly and consistently on maintaining morality, oriented toward the teaching of patriotism in the growing generation, and not toward incomprehensible aspirations." That's what I would have said, too.

May 25, 2013: Approximately thirty LGBT rights activists are arrested. Their crime is attempting to unfurl banners against homophobic legislation in front of Russia’s lower house of parliament. The vigilante counter-protesters, on the other hand, with religious icons and crosses in hand, attack the protesters. Because WWJD?

June 11 2013: Parliament passes the law against "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations," which the bill's defenders define as "relations not conducive to procreation." The language is softened so it's less overtly homophobic and no longer called the law against "homosexual propaganda." The law imposes fines of up to $31,000 for providing information about the LGBT community to minors, holding gay pride events, speaking in defense of gay rights, or equating gay and heterosexual relationships. In a truly egalitarian and internationalist spirit, the bill applies to Russians and foreigners alike, as well as media organizations.

June 30 2013: Putin signs that law!

July 3 2013: Putin signs that adoption law he was so eager about, banning the adoption of Russian children by same-sex married couples and single people who live in countries where same-sex marriage is legal. That's thinking ahead.

July 22 2013: Four Dutch tourists making a documentary about what it's like being LGBT in Russia are  arrested for  spreading "propaganda of nontraditional relationships among the under-aged" after talking to teens at a camp in the city of Murmansk.

July 28 2013: Vitaly Milonov, the Chairman of the St. Petersburg legislature's committee for legislation and the author of the city's anti-propaganda bill says it will be applied to foreign athletes and visitors during the Winter Olympics in Sochi.

RELATED STORY: Liz Plank, "Don't Boycott the Sochi Olympics"