While New Yorkers and many others celebrated the historic victory for gay marriage in last night, a handful of Russian protesters participating in an unsanctioned gay pride rally were detained and potentially attacked in St. Petersburg. Photos of the event are available via the Huffington Post, showing that while slow progress is being made in the United States toward LGBT equality, there are still significant challenges and levels of homophobia, even among the United States’ allies. According to the Associated Press, a photographer saw individuals attack the protesters as the police moved in.
The arrests were probably no surprise to the Russian gay rights activists, given the fact that there has been significant and repeated hostility toward their cause. A recent New York Times article detailed the results of a recent attempted pride parade held in Moscow last month.
“Most [protesters] were arrested seconds after unfurling a rainbow flag or a placard denouncing homophobia,” wrote Michael Schwirtz. ”Gangs of muscular men wearing surgical masks and yelling antigay slurs chased away the rest.”
Russian politicians are willing to speak out vocally against gay rights. ”This is a very dangerous thing,” said Aleksandr Khinshtein, a member of Parliament. ”Homosexuality can never be allowed to be considered normal. It’s a question of survival.” And according to the article, “People who are openly gay can be fired from work with impunity. Discussion of same-sex marriage and gay adoption is largely taboo.”
The state of gay rights in Russia shows that while we should celebrate New York’s embrace of marriage equality, we need to support those – both within and without the U.S. – who are fighting for basic rights. And there are many who seem to be galvanized by the victory in New York to demand the same for their own states or countries. French protesters took to the streets more successfully, using the New York decision to criticize the French legislature’s rejection of a similar measure earlier this month. While they did not suffer violence, their presence indicates that when it comes to gay rights, there’s still a lot more work to be done.
Photo from Wikimedia Commons.