Back in November, I posted (twice) about Allout.org’s petition to stop legislation in St. Petersburg aimed at making the promotion of homosexuality a crime. The December 4 parliamentary election and ensuing protests put the bill on the back burner, but on February 29, it passed.
The law has gotten more press this time around, and there’s another Allout.org petition to get St. Petersburg regional governor Georgii Poltavchenko to veto the bill. If you’re willing to say that you won’t visit St. Petersburg if this bill is passed (probably a pretty low-stakes claim for most of us), please consider signing. There’s also a youtube video, and Allout.org is currently asking people to leave positive comments there to drown out the flood of negative reactions from Russians and others.
There’s just one thing I want to add to the conversation. A lot of the protest rhetoric I’ve seen so far has talked about not letting a small minority of bigots silence LGBT people and their allies. I think it’s important to understand that a “small minority” is not actually what we’re up against. The bill passed 29 to 5. Fear and disgust around LGBT and queer issues is the cultural norm in Russia, and most Russians – especially those who live outside major cities and outside the relatively young, well-educated internet-using class – aren’t presented with any alternative ways of understanding gender and sexuality. In that cultural context, it makes sense to pass a law to protect innocent children from exposure to the perversion of homosexuality. Many Russians see this as a no-brainer, like laws imposing steeper penalties for dealing drugs near a school. That’s why it’s already been signed into law in Ryazan and Arkhangelsk.
Considering that, I don’t know if this law can be stopped. But I do think the international outcry is important, in that it may help to change public opinion within Russia. Let them see that there are millions of us who aren’t disgusted by gays, who don’t think everything outside a narrow conception of heterosexuality is a ‘perversion’ and don’t fear letting our children know that not everyone is straight, and who consider silencing LGBT people and their allies a violation of basic human rights. It may be true that real cultural change has to come from within, but it can certainly be helped along by pressure from without.