Photo: AFP

Russia has recently been seriously castigated by the international community and the US in particular for its law prohibiting gay propaganda to the minors. The incessant debates over Russia stigmatizing gay identity even threaten to overshadow athletic competition at the upcoming Sochi Olympics but it turns out that US critics are not completely aware of their own country’s controversial statutory code provisions.

They probably would be surprised to find out that only one of the following provisions is part of the Russian statute while three others come from US states’ codes.

1. “Materials adopted by a local school board. . . shall . . . comply with state law and state board rules . . . prohibiting instruction . . . in the advocacy of homosexuality.”

2. “Propaganda of homosexualism among minors is punishable by an administrative fine.”

3. “No district shall include in its course of study instruction which: 1. Promotes a homosexual life-style. 2. Portrays homosexuality as a positive alternative life-style. 3. Suggests that some methods of sex are safe methods of homosexual sex.”

4. “Instruction relating to sexual education or sexually transmitted diseases should include. . . emphasis, provided in a factual manner and from a public health perspective, that homosexuality is not a lifestyle acceptable to the general public and that homosexual conduct is a criminal offense.”

It’s interesting that Russia’s provision banning propaganda of homosexual sexual orientation among minors seems to be the modest one in comparison to Utah’s prohibition of “the advocacy of homosexuality”, Arizona’s ban on portraying homosexuality as a “positive alternative life-style” and suggesting to children that there are “safe methods of homosexual sex”, and the Alabama and Texas statutes’ mandate to teach children that “homosexual conduct is a criminal offense”.

Bearing in mind that eight US states and several cities and counties have some version of what they call “no promo homo” provisions, US critics might first want to take the plank out of their own eye before rushing to condemn Russia’s infringement of free speech and academic freedom.

While the above-mentioned examples from the US statutory codes focus on what must and must not be said to children, the Russian legislation only wants to protect children “from the factors that negatively affect their physical, intellectual, mental, spiritual, and moral development.”

Earlier, Putin has assured the International Olympic Committee that the law is merely symbolic and so far it hasn’t affected gay people rights in any way. But in the US, officially sanctioned anti-gay prejudice has generated classroom bullying and brought the number of suicides among gay teens to high levels. These sad statistics show that the US government might better start subjecting its own laws to more careful scrutiny instead of putting Russia under constant harsh criticism.

Voice of Russia, washingtonpost.com