Russian President Vladimir Putin issued a sharp warning today to LGBT tourists preparing to visit the country for the Sochi Olympic Games next month: you'll be fine as long as you don't prey on children while you're here.
Putin made the remarks in a question-and-answer session after a meeting with volunteers at an Olympic venue. One of them asked Putin about the climate for LGBT people in Russia, and Putin responded:
"One can feel calm and at ease. Just leave kids alone, please."
The Washington Post notes that Putin's words were "apparently meant to be a reassuring answer for visitors to the Olympics," but that he drastically missed the mark.
That phrasing -- with its intimation that gays might prey on children -- hardly seems the kind of guarantee sought by the United States and other Western governments and human rights activists.
Of course, the "gays molest children" trope is a dangerous anti-gay lie that has no factual or statistical basis whatsoever and has been widely denounced and debunked.
But the anti-gay lies kept flowing as Putin continued speaking.
In speaking to a room full of volunteers dressed in their Sochi warm-up gear, Putin attempted to put Russia on higher moral ground than other countries. Homosexuality is not a crime in Russia, as it was in the Soviet Union. Homosexuality was legalized in 1993. Police, he said, do not pluck gays off the street. In the United States, he asserted, some states impose criminal penalties for homosexual relations. Not Russia, he said.
While it's true that thirteen states still technically have sodomy laws on the books, they were rendered unconstitutional and therefore unenforceable by the U.S. Supreme Court's Lawrence v. Texas decision in 2003. Mad Vlad is just flat-out wrong.
Inexplicably, though, Putin went on:
"We have no ban on the nontraditional forms of sexual intercourse among people," Putin said in remarks carried by the Interfax news service. "We have the ban on the propaganda of homosexuality and pedophilia. I want to stress this: propaganda among minors. These are two absolutely different things: a ban on certain relations or the propaganda of such relations."
Putin asserted that the idea of legalizing pedophilia has been discussed in some countries.
"There is nothing secret about it, look it up on the Internet and you'll find it straightaway," he said. "Parties have raised the issue with certain parliaments. So what, are we supposed to shuffle behind them like obedient dogs toward unknown consequences? We have our own traditions, our own culture, we treat all our partners with respect and ask for our traditions and our culture to be treated with respect as well."
Now I'm a pretty plugged-in guy when it comes to news, and I've never heard of this alleged push by certain governments to legalize pedophilia. But I decided to take Putin up on his challenge and look it up on the Internet. A quick Google search turned up only one country with any serious recent discussion about legalizing pedophilic relationships of any kind: Iran, whose parliament reportedly passed a bill last September allowing a man to marry his adopted daughter as long as she's at least 13 years old.
But other than that? Nope. (Iran, by the way, is a Russian ally.) Wrong again, Vladimir.
If Putin is behaving so brazenly even in the glare of the Olympic spotlight, how much worse do you think it'll get for LGBT Russians after the Games, when the world turns its attention elsewhere?