MOSCOW—At first, the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling striking down all prohibitions against same-sex marriage last week inspired the predictable backlash of religiously infused recriminations that the world has come to expect from gay-propaganda-fearing Russia.
But the decision has also inspired some unlikely advocates to come forward and urge Russia toward a more tolerant stance – including one of the most influential conservatives in the very socially conservative country.
Dmitry Kiselyov, the irascible television host best known for warning that “Russia could turn the USA into radioactive ashes” while standing in front of images of a mushroom cloud, used his weekly program to call for legalizing civil unions in Russia in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling
“The LGBT community is a fact. And we can figure out how to make life easier for adults who want to take upon themselves – including on paper – the obligation to care for one another,” he said. “In the end, love works wonders. Who is against it?”
#LoveWins, Russian style?
It’s especially notable coming from Kiselyov, who as recently as 2012 said that gays should be prevented from donating blood and sperm, and prohibited from donating their organs to other human beings after deadly accidents. He defended the comments a year later.
Kiselyov isn’t the only Russian of rank calling for a more progressive view on gays.
Konstantin Dobrynin, a member of the Russian Federation Council and deputy head of its committee on constitutional law, wrote on the Web site of Russian news radio Ekho Mosky that “for Russia, it is important not to turn away from the realities of the time, and lapse into the same old battle against homosexuals, but to try to find a legal way to ensure public balance between the conservative part of society and the rest.”
It’s not as much of a turnaround for Dobrynin, who was reported to have said in 2013 that Russia had “to stop this parliamentary obsession with anti-gay lawmaking,” at a time when parliamentarians were considering a law to deny parental rights to homosexuals.
Since 2013, Russia has had a law on the books banning the spread of gay “propaganda” as a means of “protecting children from information advocating for a denial of traditional family values.” In the two years since, there has been little progress made toward creating a more inclusive, safe space for gays in Russia, and human rights organizations have repeatedly called out Russian authorities for not doing enough to prevent homosexuals from discrimination and violence.
Dobrynin and Kiselyov’s recommendations may also seem backward to an audience in the United States, where Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was repealed years ago and where the nationwide legalization of gay marriage has effectively obviated any middle ground discussions about civil unions. (Kiselyov would not go so far as to advocate for gay “marriage,” and in fact stressed that homosexual unions should not be called marriages in Russia. “A civil union – that’s a different story, a different level,” he said.)
Still, in Russia, this is significant progress.
Yet it may take a while for it to catch on, in this country where religious institutions like the Russian Orthodox Church still act as moral barometer for much of the nation.
“Godless and sinful,” is how the Russian Orthodox Church spokesman Vsevolod Chaplin described the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to Russian news service Interfax.