MOSCOW — In the latest strike against LGBTQ rights in the Russian Federation, President Vladimir Putin has officially outlawed what the State Duma (the national legislature) calls “gay propaganda.” The Duma unanimously passed the bill on Nov. 24, by a vote of 397 to 0. This means that any expression of LGBTQ identity is effectively banned from public life in Russia, meaning that any demonstrations of what they regard as “nontraditional relationships or preferences” will be barred from corporate advertising and from any outlet that is visible to minors.
Further, the law prohibits the “distribution” of content to information “that causes children to want change their sex.” By most standards, this effectually bans LGBTQ adult content and pornography as well. Such a law also oppresses, even more, the largely stigmatized LGBTQ communities in Russia. The New York Times reported that Russian officials have worked to repress LGBTQ expression “as part of a wider struggle to protect Russia from Western interference.” Nina Ostanina, a communist party member of the State Duma, said during hearings on the legislation that bans LGBTQ expressions in public that Russia doesn’t need Western interference on culture and gender identity. “We have our own way of development, we do not need European imposition of nontraditional relations,” Ostanina said during Duma hearings.
The law covers books and written material too. The Moscow Times, an anti-Putin news publication based in the nation’s capital, reports that bookstores across the Russian Federation started removing LGBTQ works from their catalogs. The law also prohibits film and video game depictions, with outlets risking censorship, organizational shutdowns, and even criminal and civil penalties that carry prison time and fines, should they be found noncompliant.
Putin has also cast LGBTQ culture as a Western intrusion. The fight to limit the free expression of queer identities has also been likened to the illegal war Putin instigated in Ukraine. Pornography in Russia is technically illegal. Independent adult content creators, however, openly produce adult content, which includes LGBTQ scenes and solo content. Nevertheless, the ban on public expression is an additional layer in the law that is likely to be enforced by authorities in an arbitrary fashion. Adult industry news outlets have noted that Russian law enforcement and political power centers have targeted political dissidents through prosecutions under anti-sex laws, even for offenses that were not sex-based.
Russia’s latest prohibition is reminiscent of state-level laws in the United States. For example, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is responsible for the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law that prohibits public school teachers from holding classroom instruction about comprehensive sexual education or gender identity for grades Kindergarten to third grade, or in a context that violates the state’s standards for sexual education.
Lawmakers in Texas have also pushed for banning LGBTQ materials, like books and magazines, from public schools and library systems. An Ohio bill that was proposed recently seeks to eliminate so-called “drag queen story hours.” Such a push is marked by armed, far-right groups protesting outside of drag queen events across the state forcing organizers to cancel the events, citing political pressure and intimidation.