CREDIT: AP/Dmitry Lovetsky
Russia’s highest court, the Constitutional Court, has ruled that the country’s law prohibiting “gay propaganda” is constitutional, dismissing a complaint filed by gay activist Nikolai Alexeyev. The judges agreed with the lawmakers that originally passed the law that children need to be protected from homosexuality:
Alexeyev had asked the court to rule that the law was based on prejudice and permitted discrimination against people based on their sexual orientation. But the judges concluded that the Constitution obliged the State to protect motherhood, childhood and family.
Legislators therefore had a duty to “take measures to protect children from information, propaganda and campaigns that can harm their health and moral and spiritual development”. The court ruled that the law against gay propaganda was such a measure, arguing that the exercise of civil rights and freedoms could not be permitted at the cost of other people’s rights.
It also dismissed Alexeyev’s complaint that the law was discriminatory, saying the ban applied equally to gay and heterosexual people and did not discrimate on grounds of sexual orientation. The court’s ruling was made on October 24, but released publicly on Tuesday.
Russian lawmakers believe that homosexuality is inherently harmful to children, which is why they’ve also proposed a law to disqualify gay parents from custody of their own biological children, comparing being gay to alcoholism, drug use, violence, insanity, and abuse. Russian media has toed this same line, claiming that protecting children justifies the ban on “gay propaganda.”
At a practical level, the law very clearly treats same-sex couples differently, because any public display of same-sex affection could be construed as “propaganda.” The ban effectively implements a nationwide “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” upon the gay community. Activists like Alexeyev have been arrested simply for holding up signs that say people are born gay. And President Vladimir Putin has banned all “gatherings, rallies, demonstrations, marches, and pickets” during the months before, during, and after the Winter Olympics, further silencing the gay community while Russia is in the international spotlight. Though he claims his country isn’t homophobic, Putin himself beliefs Europeans are dying out because “gay marriages don’t produce children.”