Russian Orthodox Church hails Supreme Court ruling against 'extremist' LGBT movement

Russia's President Vladimir Putin (L) and Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill arrive for the meeting with Russian Orthodox Church bishops in Moscow on February 1, 2013.
Russia's President Vladimir Putin (L) and Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill arrive for the meeting with Russian Orthodox Church bishops in Moscow on February 1, 2013. | REUTERS/Sergei Gunyeev/Ria Novosti

The Russian Orthodox Church is celebrating a ruling by the Russian Supreme Court that labeled the international pro-LGBT movement as "extremist," calling it a "form of moral self-defense" against attacks on biblical marriage and family. 

Last week's ruling, which came in response to a motion filed by the Russian Justice Ministry, bans the so-called "international LGBT public movement" in Russia as an "extremist organization."

In a statement to the state-run news agency RIA Novosti, a spokesman for the Russian Orthodox Church was quoted by the Associated Press as saying the ruling is a "form of moral self-defense by society" against attacks on "the Christian idea of marriage and family from the public and legal realms." 

The ruling comes after Russia expanded its laws last year so that authorities can fine any person or group that promotes homosexuality. Previously, Russian law banned LGBT advocacy for children, according to Reuters

In mid-November, the state TASS news agency reported that Russia's justice ministry filed a motion with the Supreme Court "to recognize the international LGBT public movement as extremist and to ban its activity on the territory of the Russian Federation."

Under the ruling — which came during a closed-door hearing as part of a classified case — an individual convicted of involvement in any LGBT-affiliated "extremist organization" could face between six to 10 years in prison, according to Amnesty International

The international human rights organization has warned the "extremist" designation could potentially put anyone publicly linked to LGBT groups, lifestyles or symbols at risk of prosecution. 

"This shameful and absurd decision represents a new front in the Russian authorities' campaign against the [LGBT] community," Marie Struthers, director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia at Amnesty International, said in a statement

"The ruling risks resulting in a blanket ban on [LGBT] organizations with far reaching violations of the rights to freedom of association, expression and peaceful assembly, as well as the right to be free from discrimination. It will affect countless people, and its repercussions are poised to be nothing short of catastrophic."

The European Union also condemned the ruling. 

"Amid the decades-long crackdown on rights of LGBTIQ persons unleashed under President Putin, this decision aims at further persecuting the LGBTIQ community in Russia and aims to stifle civil society and those courageously defending human rights," the EU stressed in a statement. "This decision will prevent LGBTIQ persons from enjoying their human rights and dignity over fears of unjustified persecution."

Earlier this year, the Russian Orthodox Church broke ties with mainline Western denominations which have increasingly embraced LGBT-affirming stances on issues of marriage and sexuality, including the Church of England, the Anglican-based U.S. Episcopal Church and Lutheran Church in Sweden and Norway, according to reports.

Russian President Vladimir Putin carried out a series of actions in the last year to crack down on "LGBT propaganda" and ban sex change surgeries. Last November, Russia expanded the law against "LGBT propaganda" aimed at any age. And in July 2023, the country banned sex-change operations.

During his annual address to the Federal Assembly in Moscow in February, Putin leveled sharp criticism at Western values and said the U.S. and other Western nations were using "information attacks" to target youth, distort "historical truth" and "attack our culture, the Russian Orthodox Church and other traditional religious institutions in our country."

Putin appeared to suggest the advancement of same-sex marriage and other rights for LGBT-identified people destroys the institution of the family and promotes pedophilia.

"Look at what they're doing with their own people," he said. "It is all about the destruction of the family, of cultural and national identity, perversion and abuse of children, including pedophilia, all of which are declared normal in their life."

As an illustration, Putin claimed priests are being forced to "bless same-sex marriages." Although Putin was likely referencing the Church of England's proposed plans to bless same-sex marriage, the proposal would grant priests autonomy not to bless same-sex marriages. 

"Look at the holy Scripture and the main books of other world religions," Putin said at the time. "They say it all, including that family is the union of a man and a woman, but these sacred texts are now being questioned."

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