- Further constitutional changes are likely to allow Putin to continue in power long-term.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has taken the first formal step in restricting marriage to mixed-sex couples in the country’s constitution.
Putin has submitted a draft amendment to the constitution that would define marriage as only between a man and a woman.
And the move seems likely to pass.
The draft is not yet available for the public to read. But high-ranking members of the Duma, the lower house of the Russian parliament, have presented it to journalists.
Russian state news agencies quoted Duma Vice-Speaker Pyotr Tolstoy as saying:
‘For me, the most important proposal would fix the status of marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
‘And I am happy that this amendment has appeared under the signature of the head of state.’
‘There will be dad and mum’
Speaking at the state commission which was examining changes to Russia’s constitution, he referred to marriage equality as creating ‘parent number one’ and ‘parent number two’.
Putin said: ‘As far as “parent number 1” and “parent number 2” goes, I’ve already spoken publicly about this and I’ll repeat it again. As long as I’m president this will not happen.
‘There will be dad and mum.’
And when talking about changing the constitution to make marriage between a man and a woman he added:
‘We only need to think in what phrases and where to do this.’
He is also planning a range of other conservative changes to the constitution which Russia has not amended since 1993.
The 24-page draft apparently explicitly mentions Russians’ ‘faith in God’. And Putin’s close alliance with the Russian Orthodox Church has been a major driver of homophobia in the country.
Likely to pass in an April referendum
Reports indicate the constitutional changes will likely go to a parliamentary vote in time for them to have a nationwide referendum by mid-April.
And the inclusion of a ban on same-sex marriage is likely to make the new constitution more popular.
A 2019 poll found just 7% of Russians for marriage equality and 87% against. Even 18 to 30-year-olds are 82% against marriage equality and only 12% in favor.
Meanwhile, Russia remains one of the toughest places in the world to be LGBT+.
Gay sex has been legal since 1993 with an equal age of consent of 16. Despite this, the satellite state of Chechnya has carried out several round-ups of LGBT+ people. They have tortured and detained LGBT+ people in concentration camps.
And vigilantes frequently target LGBT+ people across Russia.
Russia also has federal laws banning “LGBT propaganda’ towards children. In practice, these are used to stiffel LGBT+ events and silence opposition to the government.
Those laws may make it far harder for the LGBT+ community to fight this proposed change to the constitution.
Putin’s plans to hold on to power
But the real purpose of changing the constitution is still likely to be about securing Putin’s power.
Putin has already been in power for 20 years. He was president from 1999 to 2008 and then prime minister before becoming president again in 2012.
Russians last re-elected Putin in March 2018 with 76% of the vote. And he is due to serve a six-year term that will end in 2024.
Technically he can’t stand for the presidency again in the 2024 election. However, experts say one of the least likely scenarios is that Russia will hold free and fair elections with Putin not in the race.
More likely, Putin could change the constitution to allow him further terms in office. Alternatively, he could effectively choose his own successor. That person would then protect Putin and carry on his legacy.
Another option is for him to change the constitution so he retains power but not as president. Putin could become prime minister again or chairman of the Duma. In this case he would likely give himself extra powers.