Donald Trump, Jr.’s excuse that “Russia mania” only just began last year is incredible.
By Michelangelo Signorile
Jul 14, 2017
A bakery recently opened in Moscow, one of five owned by a Russian businessman, German Sterligov, whose four other shops are located in St. Petersburg. As Masha Gessen reported in The New Yorker last week, all five bakeries have signs in their windows that read, “No Fags Allowed.” The Russian media, Gessen notes, have “generally paid more attention to the stores’ high prices than to the signs at their entrances.”
While this might seem horrifying and far removed from American reality, let’s not forget that the U.S. Supreme just decided to take up a case, Masterpiece Cakeshop vs. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, in which a baker in Colorado essentially wants the right to do the same thing based on his religious beliefs, having turned away a gay couple who sought a cake for their wedding ― before they even discussed the design of the cake. This and several similar cases were previously rejected by the court, but with Donald Trump’s court pick Neil Gorsuch, a hardline “religious liberty” crusader, having recently the joined the court, it doesn’t seem to be a coincidence that the court now decided to take it up.
That said, though LGBT rights in the U.S. are undeniably in danger of being rolled back in the Trump era (as I warned earlier this week), they are light years from where they are in Russia, where queer people are terrorized daily under Vladimir Putin’s regime.
Queer people are terrorized daily under Vladimir Putin’s regime.
It’s an issue that has received international media attention for several years. Protests and pride events are banned, and those who’ve organized have been regularly beaten and jailed by police and thugs whom the police allow to engage in violence with impunity. I’ve interviewed Gessen, a Russian-American journalist, from Moscow several times over the past few years, publishing those interviews here on HuffPost, including when she was part of a protest in 2013 at the Russian parliament, the Duma, and was violently attacked herself.
As Gessen described in the New Yorker last week:
L.G.B.T. people have been a prime target of Kremlin propaganda since 2012. That year, Putin returned to the Presidency for a third term, amid mass protests. In response, the Kremlin started queer-baiting the protesters. A succession of cities and, eventually, the federal parliament passed bills banning “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations among minors.” Television presenters raged against imaginary homosexual recruiters of Russian children…Vigilante groups that entrap gay men online and then humiliate and torture them on camera now operate with impunity in many cities. According to Immigration Equality, an American organization that helps L.G.B.T. asylum seekers, Russia has consistently been among the top five countries from which their clients flee; hundreds of people have sought asylum in the United States and in Western Europe.
The videos of gay men being held captive, raped, tortured, and attacked by vigilante groups have gone viral over the years. President Obama spoke out numerous times against Russia’s brutality against LGBT people, and it was one of the reasons he cited for having boycotted the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi (while sending openly gay athletes to represent the U.S. instead), a time when major corporations from McDonalds to Coca-Cola found themselves under attack and mired in PR crises because of their sponsorships of the games.