Only three weeks before the opening ceremony of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics, Russian President Vladimir Putin revealed his homophobia, saying that Russia needed to be “cleansed” of homosexuality. Proving that backward views of homosexuality aren’t reserved for Appalachia or the Ozarks, Putin’s hillbilly understanding of same-sex relations seems astonishing to a Western minds, whose understanding and acceptance has evolved over time. Putin’s views of gays and lesbians mirror those of 67-year-old-bearded Duck Dynasty patriarch Phil Robertson who caused an uproar Dec. 18, 2013. “Start with homosexuality and just morph from there,” said Robertson, prompting his studio A&E to suspend him pending a more complete analysis. “Beastiality, sleeping around with this woman and that woman and that women with those men,” said Robertson.
Comparing the clean-cut former KGB agent Putin to the born-again former 1960s drug-using Hippie looks odd but ideas of same-sex relations reveal strange bedfellows. While Robertson’s an oddball reality TV star, Putin represents one of the world’s remaining superpowers, whose influence spans the globe. When he speaks about gays and lesbians, people listen, most recently cringe. Sochi Games drew the attention of activist lesbian former tennis star Billy Jean King, asking Vladimir to end Russia’s June 30, 2013 anti-propaganda laws prohibiting Russian adults from disseminating any information to minors about homosexuality. Like Robertson, Putin linked gays to pedophiles, something not supported by the scientific community. With the Catholic Church’s worldwide pedophile priest scandal, the world has certainly seen more connections to homosexuality.
Russia’s new law prohibits teachers, counselors, educators or anyone else from “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relation,” irking the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender [LBGT] community. Russia’s new law mirrors the back-wood’s view gays and lesbians. “Phil’s decision to push vile and extreme stereotypes is a stain on A&E and his sponsors, who know need to reexamine their ties to someone with such public disdain for LGBT people and families,” said the national gay rights group GLAAD. No such Russian gay rights group exists to call Putin out on making ignorant statements in global press interviews. During the U.S.’s long dark period on homosexuality, it wasn’t uncommon for employers, like the military and school districts, to discriminate against gays and lesbians due to unfounded fears of how they might affect school children or enlisted personnel.
Putin’s beliefs mirror less enlightened societies that haven’t yet evolved to accept homosexuality has a genetic, biological anomaly that deserves complete and total acceptance. When asked by the BBC if he believes people are born or become gay, Putin refused to answer, though his Russian anti-propaganda law clearly reflects the view that children are subject to influence. While homosexuality stirs controversy in the U.S. and abroad, the issue of what affects sexual orientation has been largely replaced by established civil rights laws. U.S. federal courts have treated gay and lesbian rights as civil right, prompting same-sex marriage to proliferate around the states. While once a Soviet atheist, Putin’s religious views mirror the revival of Russia’s Orthodox Church. “There are no fears for people with this non-traditional orientation who plan to come to Sochi as guests or participants,” Putin told the BBC.
Showing how off-base Putin is about homosexuality, he expressed relief that Russia’s slumping birthrate has begun to climb, implying that non-traditional orientations affect Russia’s population growth. “Anything that gets in the way that [birthrate] we should clean up,” said Putin, again exposing his backward views about alternative lifestyle. Putin’s views parallel those of religious conservatives in the U.S., especially the Salt Lake City-based Mormon Church that spent over $25 million to lobby for California’s doomed Prop 8, the ill-fated ban on same-sex marriage. While passed Nov. 4, 2008 with 52.2% of the vote, it was tossed out by the U.S. District Court, 11th District Court of Appeals and eventually the Supreme Court, opening the door to gay marriage in California. Gays and lesbians in Russia aren’t looking for same-sex marriage, only to raise the rainbow flag.
U.S. and global gay rights groups need to leave politics at the door when they go to Sochi next month. While there’s a time-and-place to lobby for gay rights, the Olympic Games is about athletic competition, not politics. Former President Jimmy Carter made an historic blunder forcing the U.S. Olympic team to boycott the 2000 Moscow Summer Olympics to protest the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Whatever sordid events happen around the world, the Olympics is the place to celebrate the promise of youth and what’s best about humanity. Before pro-gay rights group point fingers at Putin, they should look right here at home to better educate the Duck Dynasty crowd that clearly reflect the views of a major political party. While it wouldn’t hurt Putin to do his homework on gay issues, it raises more pressing questions of how a major U.S. political party shares the same misguided views.
About the Author
John M. Curtis writes politically neutral commentary analyzing spin in national and global news. He’d editor of OnlineColumnist.com and author of Dodging The Bullet and Operation Charisma.