Gay Law’s Author Rejects Criticism
Published: March 14, 2012 (Issue # 1699)
SERGEY CHERNOV / SPT
Vitaly Milonov, the law’s author.
St. Petersburg Governor Georgy Poltavchenko signed into law a controversial bill against “promoting sodomy, lesbianism, bisexualism and transgenderism to minors” Sunday, drawing a new wave of criticism from around the globe.
On Monday, the Human Rights Watch described Poltavchenko’s failure to use his right of veto to stop this “deplorable” legislative initiative as “profoundly disappointing” and urged the prosecutor’s office of St. Petersburg to “use its authority to insist that the city Legislative Assembly annul the law.”
Criticism of the new law also came from the diplomatic quarters of St. Petersburg.
“I am concerned that this legislation does not match Council of Europe guidelines on preventing discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people (LGBT),” Gareth Ward, the U.K. Consul General, wrote in emailed comments this week.
“I hope that St. Petersburg remains an open and welcoming city for all, and that the important activities of Russian LGBT organizations to support gay people will be able to continue.”
The law will take effect on March 21, 10 days after its official publication.
The Legislative Assembly lawmaking committee chair, Vitaly Milonov, who authored the bill in November, dismissed the criticism.
Speaking by phone Tuesday, Milonov, a deputy for the United Russia party, said the bill was inspired by society’s demands, though he did not mention any specific incidents.
“If society believes that some model of behavior doesn’t correspond to society’s interests, then society reacts to it,” Milonov said.
“We will be very happy if this bill isn’t applied even once, because it’s not directed against somebody specifically or in regard of a specific case, but it does outline certain additional rules of behavior toward minors.”
Answering criticism from the LGBT rights organization Coming Out’s chair Igor Kochetkov, Milonov argued that the law would not be used against the media, which, he said, is regulated by federal law.
“It has nothing to do with Kochetkov, either — if, of course, he doesn’t go to a school and start talking about how wonderful it is to be a homosexual,” he said.
“[The law] will only affect children’s environments.”
Milonov said his law would not apply to LBGT pride events.
“As a person, I am profoundly against gay parades, because I am an Orthodox Christian and demonstration of the sin of Sodom is repelling to me, and if, God forbid, I happened to see a crowd of those citizens — like they do in Berlin, I’ve seen photographs where men with all sorts of dildos are running semi-naked — it’s natural that I’d try to take my children aside, so that they would not see this perversion,” he said.
“But I am a lawmaker, and I don’t try to impose my personal and religious beliefs onto anybody. That’s why I have no right to restrict the freedom of assembly, marches and demonstrations, because this freedom is guaranteed by Article 31 of the Constitution and I have no right to violate it, and am not going to.”
Milonov is, however, planning to complain about the German industrial metal band Rammstein’s stadium concert that took place in St. Petersburg last month. Rammstein’s set includes a spoof simulated anal sex dildo routine.
“I’ll ask prosecutors to give an evaluation of this and probably take prosecutor’s measures against the promoter,” he said.
“There was an imitation of a homosexual act on stage and a non-imitation of sexual exposure — with demonstration of male sexual parts.
“Rammstein is a matter of taste, but the problem is that children older than 14 were let in to the concert. The promoter should have warned people that the concert contained scenes of an erotic nature and restricted admission to children under 16 or maybe even 18, but it wasn’t done.”
“When singers show their sexual parts to children, I believe it’s an insult to the children of St. Petersburg.”
Milonov, who is a member of a parish council of a local Orthodox church, said he saw the video footage of the routine on a newspaper’s website.
“I couldn’t even watch it to the end,” he said.
“I am not allowed to see such things, I am a church man, but it was shown to 14-year-old teenagers!”
The St. Petersburg law has been criticized as violating Russia’s international human rights obligations. Milonov sees an international gay lobby as being behind this criticism.
“One should not try to expand Russia’s obligations concerning guarantees of human rights and freedoms to the excessive defense, or rather lobbying, of the gay community’s interests,” Milonov said.
“We know that the gay community is a most powerful lobbying structure. They have their office in Brussels, they are welcome at the United Nations, the European Council and so on, but this is a problem of Europe; why should we copy European laws? Not everything that they have in Europe is acceptable for Russia.”
The new law introduces fines for offenders, set at 5,000 rubles ($167) for individuals, 50,000 rubles ($1,665) for officials and 250,000 to 500,000 rubles ($8,325-$16,650) for businesses.