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The Arc of the Moral Universe and Russia

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Following the passage in recent days of two bills embracing full marriage equality in Britain and France, Andrew Sullivan reflects on the remarkable progress he has witnessed on gay rights in Great Britain:

In the crazed frenzy of this week’s transition, I realized last night that something truly profound had just happened. The country I grew up in – where I never heard the word homosexuality in my home and barely in the culture, except in hushes and shudders – is now on the brink of bringing actual equality and dignity to all its gay citizens. I remember touring Britain with “Virtually Normal” almost two decades ago and finding both Tories and lefties uncomprehending, if not actively hostile. The culture has changed beyond recognition. And undoutbtedly, clearly, unequivocally, for the better. And the argument was made even stronger by the fact that there are over a dozen openly gay Conservative members of parliament – an indication of how conservatism as a governing philosophy can and must include everyone in its ranks, or die a deserved and bigoted death.

Indeed, Andrew believes these recent steps may in fact signal a certain kind of inevitability in the Western world on marriage equality and gay rights. One problem: Russia:

Russia's State Duma is preparing a bill that will ban "homosexual propaganda," which even supporters admit will effectively criminalize almost any overt public expression of gay sexual identity.

The public battle over the draft law has highlighted two different visions of Russian "democracy" and pitted them against each other.

Supporters of the bill, which is strongly backed by the powerful Russian Orthodox Church, argue that Russia is a non-Western and "conservative" democracy that defends traditional values and shields the feelings of the majority from the aggressive encroachments of pushy minorities. They say they're not out to persecute gay people, but that they must not be allowed to bring their sexual orientation into the open, where it may influence the attitudes of minors and offend the beliefs of most Russians.

Russian political scientist Sergei Markov, a proponent of LGBT "private zones" in the country, reveals the Kremlin's thinking on this:

The idea that Russia is somehow more backward than the West is a typical error based on the linear understanding of progress that dominated in the 19th and 20th centuries. In fact, that notion also served as the basis for the initial, fairly primitive concepts of modernization and democratization in the West. According to this concept of linear progress, all countries are on the same path, and Russia is several decades behind Europe and the U.S. Russia's legislation on LGBT propaganda only reinforce that gap. But modern humanitarian science sees society as multifaceted and allows for different approaches to a single problem. Only time will tell which solution to the issue of minority and majority rights is more effective and humane: Russia's or the West's.

Much like everything else, the Kremlin appears to be looking at this, er, "problem" through a geopolitical lens.

(Photo courtesy of Wiki by way of Sully. Key is here ... notice the big gray blotch east of Europe.)