In a throwback to the country’s authoritarian ruling, Russian president Vladimir Putin has signed a controversial law that punishes people for “homosexual propaganda.” The law fines people—including tourists—up to 200,000 rubles ($6,240 CDN) for “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations.” For Canadians—where same-sex marriage is legal—it is unfathomable that Russia’s laws permit the government to arrest and detain gay, or pro-gay, foreigners for up to 14 days before they would then be expelled from the country.
So what is considered pro-gay? Anything from gay-affirmative speech to hand-holding; even displaying a rainbow flag alongside a maple leaf on your backpack is illegal. Recently in southern Russia, there were complaints that Elton John’s stage outfits fell under “gay propaganda.” While LGBT are being told they are unwelcome in Russia, with such vague definitions, one wonders if anyone who even looks like they might be gay could also be fined or deported from the country.
According to Voice of Russia, any display of affection between same-sex couples could cause a “distorted understanding” that gay relations and heterosexual relations are socially equivalent, and risk spreading Western liberalism. Putin claims the law doesn’t discriminate against LGBT people, but rather—in an argument riddled with faulty logic—is there to “protect children from pedophilia.”
Sochi, Russia will be hosting the 2014 Winter Olympics. With openly gay athletes like America's Johnny Weir and New Zealand's Blake Skjellerup possibly competing at the Olympics, as well as openly gay attendants, this poses quite a few problems all around. Usually, such an event like this is where a nation and a city try to showcase their greatness to the wider world. Instead, Russia seems to moving backwards in time with draconian homophobic laws.