British actor, author, TV presenter and comic Stephen Fry has joined the international criticism of St Petersburg for its plans to ban discussion of gay issues.
On Wednesday (8 February) politicians in the Russian city voted 31 in favour and six against the new anti-gay law.
It would prohibit the ‘promotion’ of so-called ‘sodomy, lesbianism, bisexualism and transgenderism to minors’ and in doing so would prevent public discussion of LGBT issues, human rights work or any gay or trans events.
The proposal currently looks highly likely to become law and would mirror similar legislation in two other Russian states. It has been criticized by the US State Department and a range of human rights organisations.
Now Stephen Fry, one of the world’s most influential tweeters, has expressed his shock and outrage at the plans.
‘Hell's teeth,’ he wrote on his Twitter feed, ‘Something must be done to stop these fantastical monsters. Will talking about Tchaikovsky [Russian gay composer] be banned?’
In a further display of support and show of solidarity with the Russian LGBT community Stephen Fry wrote an address to the Side by Side LGBT International Film Festival, based in St Petersburg.
He said: ‘I send fraternal greetings of love, sympathy and support to all the LGBT citizens of St Petersburg and Russia. That the land of Tchaikovsky, the great nation that gave us so much immortal and influential in art, the novel, drama and free thinking should allow itself to stoop so low to barbarism and hatred against those who only wish to live and love in dignity like all people, sickens and saddens my heart.
‘Who is "against nature"? There are of scientifically verified examples of same-sex activity amongst hundreds of different species of animal. Only one species has ever been found to be prejudiced, bigoted and homophobic. It is homophobia that is unnatural.
‘It is a sign of fear, bullying, scape-goating and self-hatred. It is no different from Nazi racism or any other kind of brutal, ignorant and degraded behaviour. The courage of Russia's LGBT community astounds me. At the risk of broken bones they continue to stand up against hostile brutes. I encircle them with a hug of love, fellow-feeling, sympathy and admiration.’
Side By Side LGBT International Film Festival says the law would be a major blow for the LGBT movement in Russia. As well as the festival, St Petersburg is home ot LGBT organization Coming Out and LGBT Network who together have been at the forefront of fighting for gay and trans rights in Russia.
They warn a wide range of activities, such as demonstrations, speeches and events on LGBT human rights as well as provision of information about or to LGBT people within the public space are all under threat.
A statement from Side by Side said: ‘The legislation, which has been forced through without any public discussion and has no scientific or medical grounding, contributes directly to spread of hatred and increase of xenophobia in society.
‘It is a direct attack on the members of the LGBT community in Russia and violates the fundamental human rights to freedom of association, freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression which are enshrined both in the Constitution of the Russian Federation, as well as European Convention of Human Rights.
‘This continuing onslaught against LGBT people by politicians in Saint Petersburg can only lessen even further Russia’s already appalling record on human rights and democracy.’