The head of the Russian Pensioners’ Party has come up with an initiative to change the Constitution and define marriage as only being between a man and a woman.
Igor Zotov, who is also a Lower House MP on the ticket of the center-left Fair Russia Party has explained his move by his assertion that Russia’s traditional values were under threat from the latest modern tendencies.
“I got this idea from the members of the Pensioners’ Party branches in Chelyabinsk and Sverdlovsk [major industrial regions in the Urals]. These people were extremely concerned over the processes that are currently taking place all over the world, in particular by the fact that the laws allowing gay marriage have been passed in 15 different countries and four regions within larger nations. Granting the same status to gay and traditional couples leads to the destruction of the family institution because the community tends to perceive as natural those models approved at the state level,” the lawmaker has told the popular daily Izvestia.
The politician said he had started collecting signatures from fellow MPs in support of the bill changing the Article 38 of the Russian Constitution and phrasing it as “Motherhood and childhood, family and marriage as a voluntary union between a man and a woman are under the protection of the state.” The current formula only mentions the word ‘family’, without describing it.
Zotov claims that he had received some support from Duma deputies, but said he was still short of the 90 signatures needed to submit the bill for official hearings.
One of the sponsors of the initiative, MP Vladimir Bessonov (Communist Party) said that it was necessary to counter “the gay marriage trend that originated in Western Europe, but has recently reached Russia.” The best way to do that, according to Bessonov, was to launch a “counter-trend” – the support for traditional values and first of all the traditional family.
“The same-sex marriage problem is quite acute at the moment. Theoretically, democratic nations must act according to the will of the majority of population. In reality we can see that it is the active minority that actively lobbies its interests. There were mass protests in France, but no one paid any attention to them. To protect our citizens we have to resort to such measures,” Bessonov said.
Bessonov’s party comrade, deputy head of the Duma Committee for Constitutional Law Vadim Solovyov, opposed the draft, but only for technical reasons.
“The Constitution must be changed only in exceptional cases, such as, for example, the accession of Crimea into the Russian Federation. I myself am not a supporter of gay marriage, but I think we should find a different way, such as passing a separate federal constitutional law,” Solovyov noted.
Gay marriage is not allowed in Russia as the law governing marriage in the Family Code describes as a union between a man and a woman. Amendment to the constitution itself would enshrine that description.
Zotov’s initiative is in line with a broader campaign against gay rights that the authorities describe as protection of traditional values. The recent moves included the legislative ban on promoting ‘non-traditional sexual relations’ to minors, dubbed by the mass media as the ‘gay propaganda ban’ and also the ban for foreign same sex couples to adopt Russian children.
In 2013 President Vladimir Putin compared same-sex partnership to Satanism in a public speech and blasted it as “a direct course to degradation and simplification, to the deep demographic and moral crisis.”
Gay activists and rights campaigners protested against the new restrictions both in Russia and abroad. However, the overwhelming majority of Russians support this policy. According to a poll conducted by the Levada Public Opinion Center in May 2013, about 85 percent of adult Russians were strongly against a law that would allow same-sex marriage and 87 percent said they opposed the idea of holding regular gay pride events in their cities.