09/10/2013 09:25 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Russia's Anti Gay Law and International Conservatism

Co-authored by William Witenberg an abstract artist and financier. Prior to devoting full time to painting he worked in the financial industry at Salomon Brothers and Lazard Freres and subsequently formed his own broker dealer: Witenberg Investment Companies, Inc. a fully disclosed introducing broker to Goldman Sachs.

The timing of the recent passage of anti-gay propaganda laws in Russia might be surprising to the western world - right before Russia to host the G-20 summit and the Winter Olympics in February 2014. Russian President Vladimir Putin had to be aware that these laws would cause negative international reactions. Why did he take on such a risk, causing discomfort in the global community?


Let us put the events into perspective. Russian Federal law which has been published in the media is described as "the law banning gay propaganda," was enacted by the State Duma on June 11, 2013 and approved by the Federation Council on June 26, 2013. The law "banning promotion of non-traditional sexual relations among minors" was signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin on July 30, 2013. The law defines "gay propaganda" as any promotion of non- traditional sexual relations and imposes a charge on public authorities to take measures to protect children from this "propaganda."

The adoption of this law immediately sparked criticism in the international community. Notably public statements against the introduction of new legislation were made by President Barack Obama and the head of the EU diplomat Catherine Ashton. Not surprisingly, many Russians spoke in favor of the law, in particular, the three-time Olympic champion pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva and the Russian Orthodox Church.

Importantly, Russia is not the only country having anti gay legislation. Russian law banning the promotion of homosexuality is supported by more than 100 organizations from 33 countries. In fact, a 2011 United Nations Report states that consensual same sex relationships are a crime in at least 76 countries. The Spanish organization "Professionals for Ethics" made a statement that expressed "serious concern about the massive attacks and pressure" on Russia by the advocates of the "protection of sexual minorities" from a number of international organizations, since the adoption of the law. The statement stressed that the law banning gay propaganda among minors protects the rights of children and parents, recognized by international treaties.

As for the most recent developments -- many organizations supported a statement that "Russia protects genuine and universally recognized human rights." Representatives of organizations that promote the protection of family values showed their support to the international statement, issued right before the summit of G20 in St. Petersburg. These organizations called for "respect for the sovereignty of the Russian people" and asked "all people of good values to come out in support of Russia" and the Ukraine and Moldova who also are faced "with the same foreign pressure in connection with similar rules of law." A similar message came from the World Congress of Families in Russia and the CIS, in a statement signed by representatives of important Russian organizations (interregional public organizations "For Family Rights," the Moscow City Parent Committee, the St. Petersburg City PTA and Foundation support of family and demography in the name of St. Peter) as well as the organizations from the United States, Portugal, Ukraine, Italy, Belgium, the UK, Norway, the Czech Republic, Guatemala, Croatia, Nicaragua, Bulgaria, Australia, Poland and other countries.

It looks like Mr. Putin, being fully aware of the results of the law would have on the western world, chose to care more about how he is perceived in his country than in the rest of the world. We are reminded once again that progressive western views are not shared by all nations. The recent decision to defer the enforcement of it during the Olympics makes it clear that it is to be enforced before and after the event. Mr. Putin must have realized that this controversial law posed a danger to the Olympics being boycotted or at a minimum some very loud international objections. Mr. Putin is encouraging and embracing the ever increasing conservative Russian population. The support and acceptance of that segment of Russian society is a higher priority for him than adhering to western views.

While many in the Western world are condemning Putin; perhaps a longtime ally United Kingdom's refusal to support Obama's military action in Syria, offering of sanctuary to Snowden by Latin American countries (the growing view that he was a whistleblower and not a traitor), the religious right's opposition in America to same sex marriage, suggest that the growing conservative Russian population views are not uniquely Russian. While the sound of the drummer is not as loud as it is in Russia, Putin's drummer is not alone in Russia as it may appear at first glance.