The crackdown on gay rights on Russia is stunning in its scope, and offers a reminder that Russia "remains a country where discrimination and even violence against gay people are widely tolerated." But while much of the West has condemned Vladimir Putin's new efforts, the offensive is not without American backers.
Voice of Russia is the government's official international radio broadcasting service, and last week, it ran a report touting comments from the American Family Association's Bryan Fischer, a prominent leader of the religious right movement here in the U.S., who spoke to VOR at some length.
"Russia is not being homophobic, it's homorealistic -- the Russian government is trying to take the issue into consideration and establish public policy to contribute to public health, as this lifestyle is not be promoted, endorsed or granted special legal protection", the expert said, warning of high health risks linked to this lifestyle.He cites the Center for Disease Control that has monitored the HIV epidemic since 1987 and determined that 61% of HIV-positive males had sexual contacts with other males. "Homosexual behavior is just as risky as drug abuse," Fischer said."I think the Russian government is right to be concerned with propaganda on teenagers who are at the age of struggling through sexual identity issue and we should help to channel these urges in productive behavior. Heterosexuality is God's design. Policies that encourage young people to think this are good ideas."
The headline on the Voice of Russia report described Fischer as an "expert," which is an accurate label if you define "expert" as "unhinged radio activist on the laughed-at fringes of American society."
Note, Fischer's not the only one in the U.S. cheering Russia on. As we talked about a while back, the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute said it "admires" Russia's anti-gay moves; Peter LaBarbera of Americans for Truth About Homosexuality lauded Russia for rejecting "America's reckless and decadent promotion of gender confusion"; and the Illinois-based World Congress of Families has scheduled its 2014 conference for the Kremlin.
And then, of course, there's evangelical activist Scott Lively.
If Lively's name sounds familiar, it's probably because of his work in Uganda, where he brags he is known as the "father" of the anti-gay movements. When Uganda took up a "Kill the Gays" bill, proponents said it arose out of an anti-gay conference that Lively headlined in 2009. Earlier this year, the Washington Post reported that Lively has spent the last decade working "systematically to strip away human rights protections from LGBT people" around the world, becoming "a kind of persecution consultant, strategizing with influential leaders and cohorts in other countries about ways to further silence and remove LGBT people from basic protections of the law."
And wouldn't you know it, Lively conducted a 50-city speaking tour of Russia in 2007, where he recommended the very measures Russia is now pursuing. From an AP report last year:
"Russia could become a model pro-family society," he wrote. "If this were to occur, I believe people from the West would begin to emigrate to Russia in the same way that Russians used to emigrate to the United States and Europe." [...]"Russians, even after glasnost, are comfortable with an authoritarian style," he said. "That wouldn't work in the United States."
Let those quotes roll around in your mind for a moment. Lively thinks it's possible that Americans would emigrate to Russia because of its anti-gay policies, and he sounds a little disappointed that Americans aren't more accepting of Russia's authoritarian tendencies.