#DumpStoli: Russia’s Anti-Gay Bill Sparks Creative Boycott

When Keeping It Real Means Keeping Vigilant

Come on, let’s go
Back to Moscow
Irresolution doesn’t suit you or me or anybody…

– From “Moscow,” by Autoheart

Just as we celebrate progress with LGBT equal rights, another human rights breech rises up to spilling over, demanding more healing and attention in Russia.

Since 2006, a combination of anti-feminist and anti-LGBTQ fervor has been gaining momentum there. Russia continues to punish outspoken LGBT supporters, driving the point home by dragging out the fate of LGBT-feminist activist-allies Pussy Riot, denying yet another member of the group parole for its activism.

Within the last year, Russia has activated harsher legislation, banning gay pride parades while continuing to detain, arrest and prosecute LGBTQ people and allies for both public or private actions and speech.

Persecution and Prosecution

More strident legislative punishments have emerged as Russian lawmakers fight what they call “homosexual propaganda” or “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations,” passing the “Don’t Say Gay” Anti-Gay Bill.

Russian President Vladimir Putin also managed to sign a law banning all gay adoptions—signing three anti-gay bills into law total with no signs of stopping. Russian lawmakers now reinterpret LGBT outreach as “pornography,” intending to prosecute those who speak out against new laws, making them subject to the same detainment, arrest, prosecution or implied threats of violence as gay people experience.

It’s no surprise that hostility and vigilantism in Russia is becoming serious, with Russian skinheads among others attacking gay-identified persons including teens.

Separate and Not Equal

The upcoming Winter Olympics will be held in Sochi, Russia in 2014.

HRC (the U.S.’ largest gay rights organization) along with Dan Savage and others predict Russia’s new anti-gay activity will prove exacting for Olympic athletes, coaches, supporters, press and related attendees, whether or not they’re gay.

To illustrate the breadth of Russia’s definition, the HRC cited banned activities range from friends or couples holding hands, public displays of affection (kissing or hugging) to voicing solidarity in any form. The new laws equate LGBT activist outreach materials with pedophilia, forbidding by default any outreach to Russian gay or questioning teens struggling with coming out.

While the IOC says Olympic athletes, press and guests will be exempt from Russia’s anti-gay laws, how can this be guaranteed?

Johnny Weir told the press he’s unafraid, stating: “The fact that Russia is arresting my people, and openly hating a minority…is heartbreaking and a travesty of international proportions, but I still will compete.”

Activists continue to demand that LGBT athletes boycott the upcoming games. Russian tourism earnings are expected to dwindle, and meanwhile, activists in-country (namely Nikolai Alekseev and peers) say financial boycotts won’t even make a difference, encouraging international supporters to push for governmental change only. This echoes Pussy Riot’s push-back in the face of international support, which they’ve eventually warmed up to, somewhat.

Creativity Continues As Protests Spread

Regardless of the latest headlines, international creative collaborators continue to show solidarity. Such artsy projects aren’t mere flights of fancy. Passing anti-gay laws sends a clear signal to those who would commit hate crimes they’ll be given a free pass to act out violently, beyond reproach.

Remember the inexcusable violence at St. Petersburg Pride?

In an extension of this anti-gay law, Russian authorities are already arresting gay tourists who aren’t even from Russia. That’s how quickly discrimination affects us worldwide.

In the face of this chaos, Russia is facing an immediate and expansive vodka boycott. Gay-owned bars, consumers and businesses are kicking Stoli vodka to the curb. At the prompting of Dan Savage, the hashtags #DumpStoli and #DumpRussianVodka were created to fuel efforts, with Canadian and U.S.-based establishments as first responding boycotters and British clubs following suit. Canada has since issued warnings in a travel alert for LGBTQ persons visiting Russia.

Unfortunately, this puts Stoli North America in a tricky situation: Stoli Vodka CEO Val Mendeleev has expressed disagreement with new Russian laws, to which activists from Queer Nation replied, “A single open letter that was discreetly placed…will not help LGBT Russians nor will it have an impact on the… anti-gay campaign…. Marketing is not enough.”

Enter the London-based band, Autoheart, who penned the timely single, “Moscow.”

The new single greets the listener with maudlin, layered nostalgia for a love the singer knows is there. In the tune, there’s a heart that needs reminding.

On their YouTube page, Autoheart wrote: “Moscow is a song about the daft optimism of being in love,” continuing: “We are lucky in Britain to have laws that mean whether we are gay, straight, bisexual or anything in between, our relationships are recognized and our rights protected by law.”

“In our video, two gay Russian soldiers kiss in front of the Kremlin — yet just last month a group of same-sex couples in Moscow were violently attacked and then arrested for doing just this.”

If Autoheart were Russian, their very words alone would make them instant candidates for prosecution.

The band went on to encourage visitors to sign this petition, a callout to world leaders for equal rights: https://www.allout.org/en/actions/russia-attacks

Other creative solidarity projects are:

The #Virtual Pride launch

Stop Homophobia In Russia, a 2-video series

The Gay Women Channel’s “Putin Airlines Safety” video

Autoheart’s lyrics to “Moscow” conclude:

When in Moscow I just want to fold you up
And keep you warm, keep you warm.

To find out more about LGBT Russia, visit here or here –

Spectrum Human Rights Alliance (Eastern Europe) www.spectrumhr.org/?pli=1

Russian LGBT Network http://www.facebook.com/LGBT.Russia

Let’s keep talking about this: what kind of vodka is your corner bar serving? Where’s it manufactured? Is this boycott inspiring you to take action?

Gay Marriage Opponents in France More Violent and More Pink

If you’ve been worried about protesters arguing against gay marriage in the United States, you should hear about what’s been going on in France. Gay marriage in the country has been legal since May 18 of this year, and had a huge pride parade to celebrate a month later, but ever since its passage the country has had protesters demanding a change in some odd and scary ways.

After the ruling of the constitutionality of same-sex marriages, Paris saw protests flare up in its streets, some of which had to be broken apart by police forces.

The most violent anti-same-sex marriage group in France calls themselves “Hommen,” and they have been up to many things to protest within the country. Their main goals include “No to gay marriage” “Women and children first,” and “Protect kids.” The group’s main strategy for spreading their message has been to recruit young, good-looking men, put them in white masks, take away their shirts, and have them run around popular events in order to say that homosexuality is wrong. The color for the anti-same-sex marriage groups was chosen as bright pink and it is proudly displayed in the country as anti-gay. American news outlets have been happy to point out how against their own cause these groups seem to be.

Hommen is mirroring the appearance of Ukraine’s feminist group Femin which champions women’s rights worldwide. Their demonstrations involve going topless with political messages in public places, much like what Hommen has been doing. Except that is where the two groups diverge.

On June 9 members of the group protested at the French Open championship: two standing up and showing a banner that accused France of trampling on children’s rights, one lighting a flare and running onto the court, and ten others earlier in the day by trying to disrupt other matches. The protesters were turned over to and questioned by the police.

The group has recently been protesting the arrest of one of their members, Nicolas Bernard-Brusse, after he was caught by police after a protest in Paris. He was arrested along with 20 others by police after refusing to disperse from a demonstration, but he fled the scene, gave a false identity, and refused to submit to fingerprinting. Bernard-Brusse was the only one sentenced, with two months in prison with two months of suspension, the severity due to his challenging attitude toward magistrates as well as an earlier offense—for doing the same thing a month earlier. Hommen calls him a “political prisoner” and call for President François Hollande to release him from the “socialist dictatorship.” The group has also been calling for the removal of President Hollande, and actively demonstrates against him.

Unrelated to the group but kin to the movement, one man committed suicide in front of hundreds of tourists and worshippers at the Notre Dame cathedral in Paris as a protest against both immigration and the dissolution of the “traditional family.” Dominique Venner, 78 and a leader of the modern extreme right in France, left behind a note where he explained that, “I think I need to sacrifice myself to break the lethargy that overwhelms us… I give myself to death… I protest against fate,” “poisons of the soul,” and “individual pervasive desires that destroy our family identities and anchors.

Most recently, during this month’s Tour de France, right-wing groups have been protesting at the bicycle race all across France. Calling themselves the “Tour of France for All,” families with banners of pink and blue have posted demonstrations on the sidelines throughout the country, showing pictures of a nuclear family—a mother, father, son, and daughter, all holding hands. The group has also scrawled messages on the roads in front of races. While they have threatened to disrupt the race with other means, thus far they’ve resorted to only demonstrating.

Setting the record straight on which side it is on, Paris on July 14 lit up the Eiffel Tower in rainbow colors to celebrate the passage of same-sex marriage during Bastille Day, France’s day of independence.

The problem with the protests is that over 60% of French people are in favor of gay marriage, according to a Guardian opinion poll, with numbers on the rise. The French far-right won’t be gaining any popularity by protesting at such beloved and national events, especially if they resort to violence and disrupt them. Hopefully French protesters can take a leaf out of those in the U.S. and just tweet or Facebook angry things about gay marriage like civilized people.

Protest Marriage in Indiana? Don’t Even Think About It

Part of the strategy to get same-sex marriages recognized nationwide has been to apply for marriage applications and ignore the fact that the state didn’t recognize the union. Indiana’s tired of it and doing so could get you, your partner, and everyone involved some jail time and a fine.

A 1997 law in Indiana that makes supplying false information on a marriage license or application a class D felony has been recently updated. Beginning July 1, 2014 any same-sex couples applying for marriage licenses will automatically fall under this statute and be liable for prosecution. The penalty for breaking the law? Because it is a Level 6 penalty, couples could be punished with up to 18 months in prison and a fine up to $10,000.

The law also is applicable to those who conduct any gay marriages: any city clerk, clergyman, judge, mayor, or town clerk-treasurer who performs a marriage ceremony for a same-sex couple can be charged with a Class B misdemeanor, facing up to 180 days in jail and a fine of $1,000.

While the law’s updated status drops the jail time down from three years it had before, the change comes at a poignant time with federal decisions on gay marriage and campaigns starting up in the new gay marriage “battleground states.”

The state’s position on same-sex marriage seems evident when combined with a decision needed for the coming January-March 2014 legislative session: whether or not to send a constitutional amendment to Indiana citizens to prevent civil unions or gay marriage within the state. The legislature is largely Republican-controlled and the amendment has great support from Governor Mike Pence. Would the decision pass the legislature, Indiana constituents would be able to vote on the question during the November 4, 2014 general election.

This form of civil disobedience—showing how certain people are second-class citizens because of what they are denied, is popular with campaigns like “WE DO” from the Campaign for Southern Equality, among others. If this applied across the country, protests around the country would be punishable, including celebratory marriages like the one held across the street from Westboro Baptist Church along with similar protests all across the country in recent years.

While parts of the country are opening up to same-sex marriage and preparing for equality in other areas (job discrimination anyone?), others are tightening their grip on traditional marriage amendments and a two-tiered system. Attitudes are changing, but it is still going to be long fight all across the nation.