I haven’t seen a lot in the US news about this, but since I’m currently living in Estonia–which used to be occupied by the Soviet Union–I guess I’m in a better position to hear about Russian news. Basically, in November voters were supposed to weigh in on a new law that would criminalize free speech for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and trans people. As Amnesty International reports, the law would allow authorities to fine “public actions aimed at propaganda of sodomy, lesbianism, bisexuality, and transgenderism among minors.”
The ambiguous phrasing makes it unclear just what a “public action” is, leading the activists at All Out to ask for signatures to show support for freedom of speech for gays, lesbians, and other queer folks in Russia. The problems of not being allowed to freely speak about one’s sexual identity are myriad. Obviously no one wants to feel as though their identity is stigmatized, but additionally, it could complicate communication about sexual health. Health providers can give better advice for their patients about sexual health risks knowing, for instance, whether or not a patient is having sex with the opposite sex (making pregnancy and its prevention something to be discussed).
The law apparently hasn’t passed yet–the vote was delayed, and has not yet been reconsidered–but this is still an issue to be aware of, since it could potentially have a giant effect on people’s lives both in Russia and in surrounding countries. I’m sad to say that LGBTQ rights here in the Baltic region don’t generally receive a lot of publicity or attention, and one nearby country could set a negative precedent by making it illegal to advocate for tolerance based on sexual identity.