The Russian Supreme Court on Nov. 30 issued a ruling that essentially outlaws LGBTQ+ activism in the country, a move that was followed by police raids on gay bars and other LGBTQ-friendly establishments.
In the ruling, the Russian high court labeled LGBTQ+ activism a “movement” that advocates extremism, reported the Associated Press.
The legal action was brought by the country’s Justice Ministry, but the case was shrouded in secrecy, with critics charging that it relied on a litany of vague accusations. Courtroom proceedings were closed to the public and the media, and reporters were allowed in only to hear the verdict.
The Ministry asserted that it had identified “signs and manifestations of an extremist nature” in LGBTQ+ activism, including the “incitement of social and religious discord.”
Human rights advocates fear that the ruling is so broad it will allow for a sweeping crackdown on LGBTQ+ rights in the country. Indeed, just days after the ruling was handed down, police began raiding gay clubs in Moscow. In other cities, including St. Petersburg, LGBTQ+ clubs shut their doors rather than risk raids.
LGBTQ+ rights have been under fire in Russia for years. In 2013, the country enacted a law restricting the dissemination of “gay propaganda.” Seven years later, same-sex marriage was banned, and last year a law was passed banning gender-affirming surgery for transgender individuals.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has championed “family values” during his more than 20 years of rule. Putin’s aggressive stands against LGBTQ+ citizens have made him a hero to some Christian Nationalists in America. (See “To Russia with Love,” April 2022 Church & State.)
Olga Baranova, director of the Moscow Community Center for LGBTQ+ Initiatives, told the AP that Putin is scapegoating LGBTQ+ people.
“It is clear for us that they’re once again making us out as a domestic enemy to shift the focus from all the other problems that are in abundance in Russia,” Baranova said.