US embassy defiantly unfurls Pride flag as Russia prepares to lurch even further into the dark ages on LGBT+ rights
The US embassy in Moscow, Russia has raised a Pride flag in clear defiance of an upcoming vote that will effectively stop same-sex marriage ever being legalised.
Millions of Russians are expected to head to the polls on Thursday (June 25) to vote on a package of constitutional amendments proposed by president Vladimir Putin.
Among them is an amendment legally defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman, which activists fear would stand in the way of same-sex marriage or adoption being legalised in Russia.
The referendum has been accompanied by a wave of homophobic rhetoric and viral campaign ads – so the US embassy’s decision to raise the Pride flag in this climate sends a clear message.
“LGBT+ rights are human rights. Human rights are universal,” the embassy wrote on its official Instagram account, in case there was any doubt. “Everyone deserves to live free from hatred, prejudice and persecution.”
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The embassy is also acting in defiance of Donald Trump, who earlier this month banned US embassies from flying the rainbow flag for the entirety of June.
The ban only applies to official flagpoles, so embassies have worked around it by hanging the flag inside their buildings and on exterior walls – as it appears the Moscow embassy has done.
Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that Kremlin staff hadn’t noticed the flag, but added that “in any event, any display of propaganda of non-traditional sexual minorities in our country is not allowed by law”.
The controversial 2013 law bans any positive depiction of LGBT+ people as “gay propaganda”. Anyone found guilty of sharing such information with minors can be sentenced to heavy fines or up to 15 years in prison.
The upcoming referendum takes Russia’s opposition to homosexuality a step further by enshrining traditional “family values” as part of the Russian constitution.
The amendments also prioritise the Russian constitution over all international treaties and other acts, and strengthen the Kremlin’s power compared to regional and local authorities.