Photo from a Moscow LGBT rally courtesy of Evgeniy Isaev via Flickr. Text reading "LGBT" in Cyrillic script added by Curiousmatic.

The Russian “Gay Propaganda” Law Fueling Controversy

Photo from a Moscow LGBT rally courtesy of Evgeniy Isaev via Flickr. Text reading “LGBT” in Cyrillic script added by Curiousmatic.

Russia’s ban on “gay propaganda” has stirred up outrage both abroad and within the country. Here’s what the law actually means.

The law, which was passed in June 2013, bans the “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations among minors,” according to (pdf) a translation posted by the Russian LGBT advocacy site lgbtnet.ru. Anyone under 18 is considered a minor in Russia.

Vague definition

What constitutes propaganda is vaguely defined, but the law stipulates four actions punishable by sizable fines:

Distributing information that

  • Create non-traditional sexual attitudes among minors.
  • Make non-traditional sexual relations appear attractive.
  • Equate non-traditional sexual relations to traditional ones.
  • Evoke interest in non-traditional sexual relations.

There’s also no legal definition of “non-traditional sexual relations,” according to the Associated press.

This broadness leaves the law open to interpretation, and potentially applicable to pride rallies, online discussion of homosexuality, or even just wearing a rainbow flag in the street.

It’s already been used several times, according to CNN, including the punishment of the founder of an LGBT support group, as well as a newspaper editor who published a story about a gay school teacher who lost his job.

A punishable offence

The remainder of the amendment establishes the fines these violations are punishable by.

These range from the equivalent of $100-150 for citizens, $1000-1500 for officials, and $23,000-28,000 for organizations.

Using the Internet or other telecommunications to spread this information increases the fine ten-fold for citizens, double for officials, and raises the risk of a 90-day suspension for organizations.

If foreign citizens are found guilty of the same violations, they face a fine of $100-$150, as well as deportation from Russia along with up to 15 days of jail time.

Also, if telecommunications were used, there’s a fine of $1,500-3,000 along with deportation and/or up to 15 days of jail time.

Officials have stated that the law won’t affect visitors and athletes during the Olympics, however, according to the state-funded channel Russia Today, and President Vladimir Putin has said that homosexuals are welcome at the games, as long as they “just leave children alone.”

On this point, at least, it seems most Russians might agree with him: 74% of the population thinks homosexuality should not be accepted by society, according to Pew Research.

Ole Skaar