At the end of gay pride month, Russians voted on a constitutional amendment that defines marriage as solely between a man and a woman.
The referendum was a part of a package of 206 amendments put forth by Russian President Vladamir Putin. The amendments, which took effect on July 4, also allow Putin to stay in power until 2036, with two more term reelection opportunities than previously allowed.
TASS, Russia’s leading state news agency, reported 68 percent voter turnout, with 78 percent voting in favor of the amendments, though there are questions as to whether or not the vote is legitimately representative of the population.
This is not the country’s first move in limiting LGBT rights and influence. Russia has never legalized gay marriage and also has a “gay propaganda” law, which bans any public discussion or support of homosexuality among minors. Additionally, they do not allow foreign couples from countries in which same-sex marriage is legal to adopt Russian children.
The United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand issued a joint statement on June 27 while the country was in the midst of voting from June 25 to July 1. They said they “affirm the inherent dignity of each individual as expressed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and call upon the government of the Russian Federation to adhere to its stated commitment to protecting the rights of all citizens, including the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) community.”
Along with much of the West’s calls to uphold LGBTQ rights, activists are concerned that the passage of the amendment may promote intolerance and violence towards homosexuals, which increased after the “gay propaganda” law passed, according to the Human Rights Watch Campaign. Among those concerned is the President of the Human Rights Campaign, Alphonso David.
“Russia is tripling down on its attacks on the basic human rights and dignity of LGBTQ people,” said David.
In response to claims that Russians may become hateful towards LGBTQ people, Russian Parliament member Pytor Tolstoy said, “In our country, people are tolerant to all communities, as long as they don’t demand any special rights.”
Tolstoy, who is supportive of the amendment banning same-sex marriage, said that Russia is a “stronghold of traditionalism.” The traditionalism of Russia may be connected to the stronghold of the Russian Orthodox Church, which Pew Research Center estimates to be over 72 percent of the Russian population by 2030.
Pointing towards European and American legalization of same-sex marriage and further LGBT rights, Tolstoy said the amendment secures that Russia will not “make the same mistakes as the West.”