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Trump’s Icon Vladimir Putin Is No Friend to LGBTs

Trump’s Icon Vladimir Putin Is No Friend to LGBTs


The GOP nominee claims to have our backs, while at the same time expressing admiration for a nation that criminalizes "gay propaganda."

After it became known that Russian intelligence hacked the Democratic National Committee and leaked its communications -- ostensibly in an effort to swing the U.S. presidential election to Donald Trump -- the relationship between the Republican nominee and Russian officials came under scrutiny. While some suggest Trump is colluding with the nation -- which has a very tense relationship with the U.S. -- and that the Russians may be bankrolling his campaign, the candidate only upped the ante when he called on Russia to hack Hillary Clinton's missing emails.

"Russia, if you're listening, I hope you'll be able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing," he said during a press conference on Wednesday in Florida. "I think you'll probably be rewarded mightily by our press."

After intense and deserved criticism for the remarks by both the Twittersphere and intelligence officials, Trump claimed he was being "sarcastic." Of course, the next day he declared Putin is a "better leader than Obama."

What's true and false with Trump's words is never easy to parse, especially since the businessman has both said he's met, and never met, the Russian leader.

Another contradiction is that Trump -- an opponent of marriage equality and a candidate running on a party platform that vaguely endorses "conversion therapy," and one who chose a running mate who advocates discrimination against LGBT people -- claimed in his Republican National Convention speech, "As president, I will do everything in my power to protect LGBTQ citizens from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology."

That discrepancy carries over into Trump's admiration for Putin.

While the Russian leader, who infamously annexed Crimea in 2014, claimed in a 2015 interview with Charlie Rose that gays in Russia had equal rights, that's far from the truth. There is no marriage equality in the nation nor laws protecting gays, bisexuals, or transgender people from discrimination in employment, housing, banking, or public accomodations.

"I don't see here any infringement here on the rights of gay people," Putin said. "I believe this has been a deliberate exaggeration aimed at making an enemy image of Russia for political considerations. I believe this is one of the lines of attack against Russia."

On top of Putin's clear misunderstanding of LGBT equality, he signed a 2013 bill that banned "propaganda of non-traditional sexual relationships" to minors. The vague law is intended to "protect" youth from being exposed to any nontraditional relationship. The law has translated to prohibitions on large LGBT demonstrations and Pride celebrations, directly led to arrests, encouraged anti-LGBT violence, and prompted proposed bans on same-sex PDAs and coming out of the closet.

An American pastor was jailed and fined this month because police wrongly thought he was performing a same-sex marriage. A Russian LGBT rights activist was fined 100,000 rubles earlier this year because officials believed his group's website violated the propaganda law.

The most enduring effect of the legislation may be encouraging and increasing general animus against LGBT people in Russia. A 2015 poll showed that a whopping 80 percent of Russians oppose same-sex marriage -- only 59 percent were opposed to marriage equality a decade earlier. In 2004, 12 percent of Russians believed gays were dangerous and should be "isolated from society," and that number rose to 20 percent in 2015.

Should Trump be elected, will he demand Russian gays be protected? That seems about as likely as him releasing his tax returns.

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