Published: 13/07/2020

On June 25, 2020 a referendum was organized in Russia in order to introduce the amendments to the constitution proposed in January 2020. These amendments were approved on July 1, 2020 by a contested popular vote. The list of amendments sought to enshrine Russia’s traditional cultural and religious values including a commitment to protect the institution of marriage “as the union of a man and a woman”.

In the new text that emphasizes the holiness of the family institution, marriage is defined as a union between men and women and it is said that the marriage institution will be protected together with mothers, fathers and children. The government, known for its repressive attitude towards different sexual orientations, thus constitutionally prevented any regulation that would pave the way for gay marriage.

At the end of June, 2020 over 30 people were arrested in central Moscow, for protesting in support of an LGBTI activist in detention.

Thomson Reuters Foundation published an opinion article by Richard Mole, a professor at University College London about the increased risk of discrimination against LGBT+ Russians as a result of these constitutional restrictions. The opinion article points out that there was no possibility of same-sex marriage being introduced in Russia and the traditional understanding of marriage was thus in no way ‘in danger’.

Mole strongly contends that the constitutional amendment defining marriage exclusively in heterosexual terms was introduced for the same reason that the anti-homosexual propaganda law of 2013 was introduced: to delegitimize Western liberal ideas, for which support for same-sex rights is a useful proxy, thereby shoring up support among the conservative majority.