With the stroke of a pen, Russian President Vladimir Putin formally enacted a series of anti-LGBTQ+ amendments banning marriage equality and transgender adoptions, and centering “a belief in God” as a core value of the country. The homophobic and transphobic amendments were passed last July in a national referendum, with over 77 percent of voters casting their ballots in support of the measures. According to a report in the AP, the new rules also reset Putin’s term limits as president, meaning he can serve an additional two six-year terms in office.
The amendments passed by voters and signed into law by Putin specifically ban marriage equality and adoption by transgender folks. The amendments were highly popular with the socially conservative Russian populace. Religious themes play an important role in society in the nation and often drive anti-LGBTQ+ sentiments.
The campaign in support of the constitutional amendments was particularly offensive. One notorious television commercial featured a gay couple adopting a young boy from an orphanage. When the boy asks the man adopting him about his new mother, the man points to his car where a second man emerges wearing makeup and clothing that is meant to appear feminine. The ad, entitled “Why amendments to the Constitution are important,” ended by asking viewers if “this is the Russia you choose.” Video of the ad was later pulled from YouTube.
Life for the LGBTQ+ community has grown even worse since then. Putin followed through on a promised crackdown in a series of moves that have silenced opposition. School teachers in St. Petersburg were instructed to comb through the social media profiles of their students and report any LGBTQ+ symbols or support to authorities.
More recently, a Russian law enforcement official detained two gay men who had escaped torture and abuse in the Chechen Republic and then handed them back to their alleged abusers. Salekh Magamadov and Ismail Isayev had fled to Russia after Chechen authorities allegedly arrested and tortured the two men for their LGBTQ+ activism. Prior to their escape, the pair were forced to record a deeply disturbing video apology at the hands of Chechen authorities. Russian police detained the pair in January and returned them to their abusers across the border.