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President Vladimir Putin has recommended an amendment to the Russian constitution that would officially define marriage as being between a man and a woman. This wording, which would essentially ban gay marriage in the country, is part of a 24-page draft amendment that Putin has submitted to the nation’s parliament.
Under Putin, Russia has become more hostile to the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. The country has passed anti-LGBT laws that have received considerable criticism on the international stage.
Putin proposes marriage amendment
As reported by The Guardian, Putin submitted a 24-page document which outlines amendments to the constitution of the Russian Federation. The document has not been officially adopted yet, but members of Russia’s lower parliament, known as the Duma, spoke to journalists about what was in the amendments.
The amendment also includes language that more explicitly ties the history of Russia to the Soviet Union (also known as the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, or USSR). It would also strengthen the nation’s hold on Russian-claimed territories, such as Crimea, which it controversially annexed in 2014.
Pyotr Tolstoy, a member of the Duma, said he was happy that part of the amendment “would fix marriage as a union between a man and a woman.”
In January, Putin introduced a bill to the Duma to amend the nation’s constitution for the first time since 1993. That bill was unanimously approved by the parliament.
Putin is a former member of the KGB, the infamous Soviet security agency. He first served as president from 2000 to 2008, returned to office in 2012, and then won reelection to a new six-year term in 2018.
The Russian constitution
On December 12, 1993, Russia officially adopted The Constitution of the Russian Federation. The adoption of the new constitution nullified the country’s previous constitution, which had been adopted on April 12, 1978.
The new constitution came almost exactly two years after the December 25, 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, which occurred under Mikhail Gorbachev. That brought an end to one of the world’s dominant political powers, the USSR, which officially formed in 1922.
Russia’s constitution begins with a 115-word preamble that bears a resemblance to that of the US Constitution:
We, the multinational people of the Russian Federation, united by a common fate on our land, establishing human rights and freedoms, civic peace and accord, preserving the historically established state unity, proceeding from the universally recognized principles of equality and self-determination of peoples, revering the memory of ancestors who have conveyed to us the love for the Fatherland, belief in the good and justice, reviving the sovereign statehood of Russia and asserting the firmness of its democratic basic, striving to ensure the well-being and prosperity of Russia, proceeding from the responsibility for our Fatherland before the present and future generations, recognizing ourselves as part of the world community, adopt the CONSTITUTION OF THE RUSSIAN FEDERATION.
Chapter 9, Article 134 of the constitution states that the president may propose amendments to the constitution.
Anti-LGBT laws in Russia
One of Russia’s most controversial laws is the so-called “gay propaganda” law of 2013, which Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called “a classic example of political homophobia.”
The wording of the law says it is intended to protect children. It does this by prohibiting young people in Russia from getting information about the LGBT community through any media. HRW says the law has “harmful consequences for LGBT youth.”
The law was also steeply rebuked as discriminatory by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France. In June 2017, the court ruled that Russia’s law violated two articles of the European Convention on Human Rights: Article 10, which ensures freedom of expression, and Article 14, which prohibits discrimination.
The court required Russia to pay a fine of between €8,000 (US$8,900) and €20,000 (US$23,000) to three activists who had protested the law.
The European Court again ruled against the Russian government in July 2019 and required the country pay a fine to three LGBT rights groups. The three groups had been denied the right to register because, according to the government, they would “destroy the moral values of society.”
Homophobia in the USSR
In the Soviet Union, discrimination against homosexuals was enshrined into law. Article 121, added to the criminal code in 1934 by General Secretary Joseph Stalin, which outlined that sexual relations between men was “punishable by deprivation of freedom for a period not to exceed five years.”
A poll in 1991 found that 30% of Russians between the ages of 16 to 30 believed homosexuals should be “isolated from society,” while 60% thought negatively of gay people.Nonetheless, in May 1993, Russia’s legislature officially revoked Article 121 and ended the nation’s criminalization of homosexuality.