What is the difference between Russia and Iran? Past Iranian president Ahmadinejad said there is no homosexuality in Iran. Russian law admits there are homosexuals in Russia, but bans them from the public square. You can be homosexual, but only in private.
The result of the law has been the persecution of homosexuals.
The Russian Orthodox Church is behind the law. A leader says, “This law gives us a chance to preserve the purity of childhood, and to oppose the artificial sexualization of children.”
In the past and present, Russia and many other countries have repressed minorities. Until the last quarter of the last century, gay people were often singled out for discrimination.
All that has changed in some parts of the world. Western countries are allowing gay people to marry. Slowly, states across the U.S. are allowing gay marriage, and gay married couples can now collect federal benefits.
The new attitude toward sexual orientation can be seen in the response to the Russian law. The Winter Olympics are set to take place in Russia in 2014. Protests over Russian policy are taking place all over world. Many groups are calling for a boycott of the winter games.
President Obama said he has “no patience for countries that try to treat gays or lesbians or transgender persons in ways that intimidate them or are harmful to them…”
The stakes are big. Countries can boycott the Olympics. Athletes can pull out of the games. The International Olympic Committee also can act. However, it is not clear if countries, athletes or the Committee are willing to take any dramatic steps.
Political experts say Russia will suffer if there are boycotts or pull outs. Russia will be seen as a country out-of-step with the western world. Observers say that, for a country that wants to grow, this is not the time to be seen as making its people conform to a majority view of how people should be.