Pride Parades in the U.S. this weekend come hot on the heels of victories for marriage equality advocates. The U.S. Supreme Court declared the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996 to be unconstitutional. Proposition 8 in California, which banned same-sex marriage in that state, was confirmed to also be unconstitutional. But even without the extra victories for marriage equality in the U.S. this past week, Pride Parades have become fairly passé on our landscape. In the past they were unusual events, avoided by and bewildering to straights. Nowadays just as many straights attend, march, observe and celebrate as gays.
But the more things change, the more they stay the same. In Russia this weekend, a group of about 40 gay rights activists were gathered at a rally in a place that is designated as space for public demonstrations. Having such a space may seem in itself to be a great advance for Russia. But using it to demonstrate for gay rights is not allowed. Police reportedly arrested dozens of people at the rally.
The arrests came on the heels of a newer statue in Russia that prohibits any public displays of homosexuality, as well as talking about it to children. Anyone violating the law is subject to arrest and fines, including media organizations who may report on it.
There is a widespread hostility toward homosexuality in Russia. Some blame it for the low birth rates in that country. Some further say that gay persons should be barred from government jobs, be subjected to forced medical treatment or even be forced to leave the country.
Activists have tried to draw attention to their cause in ways that are would not be considered too hostile or salacious, allowing them media coverage without endangering the media organizations that might report on it. For example, several gay and lesbian couples tried to marry at a local registry office, knowing they would be turned away by authorities.