The LGBT community in the U.S. celebrated a significant victory on June 26 when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a provision of the the Defense of Marriage Act that denies gay couples federal benefits. That same day, the Federation House in Russia (the functional equivalent of the U.S. Senate) overwhelmingly approved a bill that criminalizes gay propaganda geared towards minors.
The parameters of “propaganda” range from disseminating gay-themed content on cell phones to advocating for gay rights on the streets. Russia’s Duma, the lower house, overwhelmingly approved the same bill two weeks earlier. The statute calls for fines upwards of one million roubles ($30,500) for offenders. It also stipulates deportation, fines and/or 15 days in jail for foreigners who violate the statute. The bill will now go to President Vladimir Putin, who is expected to sign it into law.
A poll conducted by the Russian Public Opinion Research Center found that 88 percent of Russians support the bill. A report by The Independent in the U.K. reported that 80 percent of Russians say homosexuals should keep their sexuality to themselves. Conversely, a New York Times/CBS Poll released at the beginning of June found that 51 percent of Americans support gay marriage, while 44 percent oppose it.
It was October 7, 1998 when University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard was beaten to death by two men who pretended to be gay so they could lure him into a truck and rob him. Both men were ultimately sentenced to two consecutive life sentences in prison after plea bargains spared them the death penalty. And though it took 10 years, the Matthew Shepard Act, which classifies these types of murders as hate crimes, was signed into law by President Barack Obama on October 28, 2009.
Meanwhile this past May, two men were charged with murder in the city of Volgograd, Russia after beating a 23-year-old gay man to death. The three of them had been drinking when the victim revealed his sexuality to the other two. The fact Russian media even mentioned the homosexual angle of this story is a rare occurrence, according to Radio Free Europe.
Whether you’re some random high school student or a popular CNN host like Anderson Cooper, revelation of your sexuality will be met with congratulations and near universal support from U.S. mainstream media. Contrarily Anton Krasovsky, a former Russian television host, was fired immediately after coming out on live TV this past January.
The World’s Feelings
Going by the numbers, the U.S. and Europe are in the minority when it comes to their stances on gay marriage and homosexuality in general. Other than South Africa, same sex marriage is illegal in every other country on the continent. A vast majority of said countries have criminal penalties for homosexual behavior punishable by imprisonment and even death, according to the ILGA.org. Homosexual activity and gay marriage are also illegal in every Muslim country and India. Gay marriage is illegal in most of South America, while China allows homosexual activity, but recognizes neither gay marriage nor civil unions.