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Russia referendum: Putin until 2036 and constitutional ban on same-sex marriage

Russia referendum: Putin until 2036 and constitutional ban on same-sex marriage

  • Russian LGBT+ people are waking up to a constitution that includes ‘faith in God’ for the first time.
Vladimir Putin

Russian voters have approved a new constitution that offers President Vladimir Putin the chance to stay in power until at least 2036 and bans same-sex marriage.

Russia didn’t previously offer same-sex couples access to marriage. But the vote now defines marriage as ‘the union of a man and a woman’ making marriage equality an even more distant prospect.

Moreover, it confirms that Putin can run for two more terms as president. He has already been in power since 1999. Under the new constitution, he can run again when his current term is up in 2024. Indeed, he is entitled to two new terms, taking his presidency up to 2036.

Russia kept polls open for a week to increase turnout. While officials said this was to manage crowds due to coronavirus, critics said it allowed the Kremlin to manipulate the outcome of the vote.

Moreover, they engaged in some unusual tactics to get people out to vote. This included a prize draw offering apartments to winners.

The constitutional ban on same-sex marriage was another of the inducements. A 2019 poll found that just 7% of Russians supported marriage equality with 87% against.

In the end, the result appears to be even more decisive than the polls suggested it would be.

Election officials claim that nearly 78% of Russians voted in favor of amending the constitution in the way Putin proposed.

206 questions, just one answer

Notably, the vote asked Russians to agree to 206 constitutional amendments with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer.

Authorities had argued it was ‘technically impossible’ to ask voters to decide on each of the changes individually.

In fact, the proposal on term limits for the presidency was deep in the list and not the focus of the campaign.

Instead, campaign literature emphasized the new definition of marriage as between a man and a woman and the other popular measures. The inducements also included guarantees on pensions and social benefits.

The new constitution also includes a reference to ‘faith in God’ for the first time. This appears to deepen Putin’s longterm alliance with the viciously homophobic Russian Orthodox Church.