President Vladimir Putin on Friday mocked the U.S. embassy in Moscow for flying a rainbow flag to celebrate LGBT rights, suggesting it reflected the sexual orientation of its staff. During a televised video conference, a lawmaker told Putin that the US embassy had hung a rainbow flag on its facade for the first time to celebrate Pride month in June.
“Who works in this building?” Putin asked the speaker, Senator Alexei Pushkov, to be told “Americans.” “Let them celebrate. They’ve shown a certain something about the people who work there,” he added with a smile.
Putin’s amendments ban gay marriages
His comments followed a nationwide vote on constitutional reforms that included an amendment enshrining the definition of marriage specifically as a union between a man and a woman.
Vladimir Putin signaled to supporters it was open season on the rainbow, a day after Russians approved an effectual ban on gay marriage as part of sweeping amendments to the constitution https://t.co/1JKYwcoQCr
— Bloomberg (@business) July 3, 2020
Putin on Friday signed amendments to the constitution backed by a national vote that include a clause on marriage being between a man and a woman, aimed at preventing legalisation of gay unions.
The president said Friday however that Russia does not discriminate against people on the basis of sexual orientation.
Referring to the rainbow flag over the US embassy, “It’s no big deal though. We have spoken about this many times, and our position is clear,” said Putin, who has sought to distance Russia from liberal Western values and aligned himself with the Russian Orthodox Church.
Putin against the notion of foisting of gay marriages
He said a law banning promotion of homosexual relationships to minors, which he signed in 2013 to a storm of international condemnation aimed simply to prevent the “foisting” of such relationships on children.
The law has been used as a pretext to ban gay pride events.
“Let a person grow up, become an adult and decide his own path himself. You just shouldn’t impose anything,” Putin insisted. He said that “those who attack us on this basis are just trying to break down an open door.”
A conservative politician who heads the Union of Women of Russia warned Putin that billboards were using rainbow imagery to sell ice-cream. “It’s indirect but all the same it forces our children to get used to the colours, to the flag that everyone is hanging up, even on that embassy,” said Yekaterina Lakhova.
US and UK respond: Russia must protect the rights of LGBT people
US Ambassador to Moscow John Sullivan in a video on Twitter on June 25 said “our embassy is displaying the rainbow flag in solidarity,” wishing Russians a “happy Pride.”
Today is the 51st anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, a moment of resistance by LGBT people against discrimination, police harassment and exploitation.
— LGBT Foundation (@LGBTfdn) June 28, 2020
On June 27, he and ambassadors from four other countries including Britain released a statement urging the Russian government to carry out its obligations to protect the rights of LGBT people. The British embassy in Moscow also flew a rainbow flag.
The flag on the US embassy, an imposing building on a major road, became a target for homophobic protests.
Members of Sorok Sorokov, a conservative Orthodox Christian group, videoed themselves trampling on a rainbow flag on the pavement in front of the building. An Orthodox Church spokesman slammed the flag as disrespectful of Russians’ values.
Many however snapped selfies in front of the flag to signal their support for gay rights. “The pride flag on the US embassy has become a landmark,” wrote entertainment website Afisha.ru.
From the recent amendments to the constitution in Russia, stemming from a national vote, one can still see societal norms not being in favour of gay marriages and LGBT people. However there is still little evidence to support the stance that societal norms in Russia are vehemently against LGBT people, their rights and what they stand for.
Recent amendments made to the constitution of Russia may curtail the rights of LGBT people according to some.
Russia decriminalised homosexuality in 1993.
AFP with additional input by GVS News Desk
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