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

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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.

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.

Huh? What? 

On February 20, 2006, then-Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Zhukov (currently serving as a Deputy Speaker of the State Duma and the President of Russia's Olympic Committee), submitted an official recall to a tabled antigay bill, arguing that the legislation contradicted Russia's criminal code that doesn’t allow to criminalize the propaganda of noncriminal behavior, contains “a row of mistakes and judicial-technical inexactitudes,” and relies on definitions that do not allow to clearly formulate corpus delicti. The May 20, 2004, rebuttal from Mr. Zhukov was even more forthcoming, pointing out that the bill “contradicts article 29 of the Russian Constitution, as well as articles 8, 10, and 14 of the European Convention on human rights.”

I couldn’t put it better than Zhukov. Unfortunately, his resistance to the anti-gay bills of 2004 & 2006 came at a time when the Kremlin cared about Russia’s international reputation. Now it appears to care only about nontraditional sex.