Posted: Jul 30, 2013 8:00 AM
 
On June 30, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed into law one of the most overt attacks on the homosexual community. In Russia, it is now illegal to state that you are gay or perform any act that may be perceived as homosexual or pro-homosexual. Find out why this matters to American families.

Russia recently signed into law anti-homosexual laws so severe (and frankly, insane), it's hard to believe they have actually occurred. They sound like the dreams of some radical fundamentalist right-wing "Christian" (um, not actually Christian at all) whackos rather than the official policy of an actual government in 2013. It sounds like policy drafted excitedly by the Westboro Baptist Church.

Russia has effectively criminalized homosexuality. Not only is it now illegal to state you are homosexual, it is also illegal to demonstrate support for homosexual people in any way whatsoever or "act gay" (or lesbian). In other words, if a government official or police officer sees a person doing something that may be construed as an act of or in support of homosexuality, that person can be cited and fined.

See what I mean about "insane?" I wasn't exaggerating.

The new law... imposes fines on those who spread propaganda 'directed at forming nontraditional sexual setups' or that gives the 'distorted understanding' that homosexuals are 'socially equivalent' to heterosexuals. The 'homosexual propaganda' penalised under the legislation includes wearing a rainbow flag or tweeting positive messages about gays or lesbians.

The Guardian quotes directly from the new policy: "The new law... imposes fines on those who spread propaganda 'directed at forming nontraditional sexual setups' or that gives the 'distorted understanding' that homosexuals are 'socially equivalent' to heterosexuals. The 'homosexual propaganda' penalised under the legislation includes wearing a rainbow flag or tweeting positive messages about gays or lesbians."

Right. Yes. We wouldn't want people thinking gays and lesbians are "socially equivalent" to straight people. I mean, who knows what would happen if people weren't punished for loving in a way that you, based on your own personal religious beliefs (Russian Orthodox Christianity), find unacceptable.

The whole thing is disgusting.

Why should America care?

This law extends to foreign citizens visiting Russia. Foreigners suspected of "gayness" (honestly the more I write this the more crazy it becomes) can be detained in Russia for up to 15 days before being sent back to their home countries.

Olympic Rings

This is particularly relevant because the 2014 Winter Olympics are scheduled to take place in Russia, which means gay and lesbian athletes and families may not be safe traveling to the country to participate in or watch the Olympics. Though The Guardian states that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has spoken with the Russian government and received a promise that the ridiculous, inhumane draconian laws won't be applied to Olympic athletes (OK maybe that wasn't the exact promise), this doesn't seem like an acceptable plan to me.

For us to participate in the Olympics in a country blatantly violating the basic human rights of its citizens because we are guaranteed protection stands against everything our country claims to represent.

This unclear, unprovable promise should not serve as some sort of comfort or reconciliation. For us to participate in the Olympics in a country blatantly violating the basic human rights of its citizens because we are guaranteed protection stands against everything our country claims to represent. Basically we're just saying: "Yes, well, as long as we aren't affected by your backwards laws, we're OK with it."

NBC and other stations have been encouraged to use their media power to spread the word of these laws so American consumers and companies can boycott Russian goods. Dan Savage is urging people to boycott Stoli vodka, but others claim that's an ineffective move. I hope something more happens than vague promises of American "safety" and poorly organized vodka boycotts.

Global family

As a global economy, this law means that every Russian product we now buy is supporting the economy of a country violating basic human rights. It means LGBT employees of multinational companies and organizations cannot be transferred to Russia, and business trips there will be unsafe for them. Of course it means trips to Russia for any reason are unsafe for the entire LGBT community. It means every human living in or visiting Russia, homosexual or not, will live under constant fear of showing too much affection in public for a same-sex friend or doing anything that may be conveyed as "supportive" of homosexuality.

As families raising kids in an increasingly connected world, we should recognize the importance of what's happening in Russia beyond vacationing, Olympics and economic factors. We need to be aware that there is a global war on homosexuals. We need to see this as evidence of what happens when religion is allowed to enter government. We need to understand that while things might be changing in our country (finally), the global climate remains in large part one of inequality and bigotry toward homosexuals.

This matters.

This matters because we are interconnected whether we wish to be or not. We can try to turn our heads and ignore what's happening in Russia because it's, well, in Russia, but what is that teaching our kids, and what kind of world is being formed for them?

I want my kids to understand that their decisions have power, just like the policies and actions of other countries have power over us, and we have a responsibility to do what we can to support humanity in all its forms.

Personally, I want my kids to understand that their decisions have power, just like the policies and actions of other countries have power over us, and we have a responsibility to do what we can to support humanity in all its forms.

As we move toward a more interconnected world, we must move in the direction of equality, if not basic human safety and decency.

Just because we can't see the suffering doesn't mean it's not there, or not ours. All humans, if you pull the lens back far enough. become a single family knit together inextricably through economic, social and cultural ties. And we are only growing closer.

Another Perspective^

"I contend there are much worse things happening throughout the world that the U.S. is turning a blind eye to," says allParenting writer Rebecca Bahret. Read her opinion on why protesting isn't the answer - unless we do it in all cases.

More on civil rights

Boy Scouts and bigotry
How white people will ignore Obama's speech on Zimmerman
The danger in "nurse discreetly"

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Maria Mora July 31, 2013
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I'm very concerned about the Olympics this year. I feel like something BIGGER has to be done for this to be a safe environment for athletes, and I'm struggling with what to do from this end, you know? Should I boycott watching the games this year? Is that enough?