Russia has convicted a 40-year-old German teacher of violating the country’s ban on LGBTQ+ “propaganda” for inviting a 25-year-old man to have private, consensual sex behind closed doors in his hotel room. The teacher’s conviction demonstrates how Russia’s recently expanded law is now being used to punish LGBTQ+ people just for existing.
The unnamed teacher had stayed at a hotel in the far-eastern city of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky, according to the global news site DW. It’s unclear how legal authorities learned about his sexual invitation. The teacher reportedly admitted to his “crime,” was fined approximately $1,880, and will be deported back to his home country via Turkey.
In March, the same law was used to prosecute a young male bi-national couple who are popular content creators on the TikTok video-sharing platform. It’s unclear if the couple was prosecuted for publishing gay-related content online or for some other reason. After their arrest, the couple relocated outside of the country — leaving their homes, jobs, and possessions. The member of the couple, who is a Russian native, has a court date scheduled in Russia on May 11, according to the couple’s Telegram account.
Russian President Vladimir Putin first signed a law banning so-called “gay propaganda” in Russia in June 2013. The law ostensibly sought to “protect children” from any “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relationships,” as stated in the law’s text. The new law extends the restrictions to not just children but Russians of all ages.
The law has mostly been used to silence LGBTQ+ activist organizations, events, websites, and media, as well as to break up families and harass teachers. It has also been roundly condemned by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, the human rights groups Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, as well as civil rights activists around the world.
Last December, Putin signed a law expanding the country’s prohibition on LGBTQ+ “propaganda.” The newly signed law effectively outlaws any public expression of LGBTQ+ life in Russia by banning “any action or the spreading of any information that is considered an attempt to promote homosexuality in public, online, or in films, books or advertising,” Reuters reported.
Critics say the updated law will further endanger the lives of Russia’s LGBTQ+ population, which has already suffered increased harassment, violence, and hostility in recent years.
Anti-LGBTQ+ religious leaders and right-wing political figures in the U.S. have praised Putin for his law. Indeed, Republican legislators, so-called “parents’ rights groups,” and right-wing pundits have increasingly moved to ban American kids from accessing any LGBTQ+ content, gender-affirming healthcare, or drag shows over untrue claims that these “sexualize” and “groom” children.
In 2013, Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute (C-FAM) President Austin Ruse said Russia’s anti-LGBTQ+ laws were a “good thing” that “most of the people in the United States” would support. In 2014, anti-LGBTQ+ evangelical leader Franklin Graham also defended the law.