On Sunday January 19th, 2014, President Vladimir Putin took to the airwaves himself to directly confront the growing international mischaracterization of Russia during the run-up to the Sochi Winter Olympics, where at least four Alaska athletes will compete. During his interview with correspondents from Channel One, Rossiya-1, ABC News, BBC, CCTV television channels and Around the Rings, Putin addressed a wide range of Olympic-related issues, from costs to corruption to missed deadlines to anti-terrorist measures. But questions surfaced about homosexuality, and President Putin reassured viewers that gay visitors have nothing to fear from Russia's laws. Putin even asserted that public protests against the laws would not be treated as spreading pro-gay propaganda. Putin added that since Russia started countering and restricting pro-gay propaganda, Russia's birthrate has risen perceptibly. Putin also accused the United States of double standards in its criticism of Russia, pointing to laws that remain on the books in some U.S. states classifying gay sex as a crime, although such laws were effectively orphaned as unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2003.
But for those who want more than just filtered media spin, Russia Today published a full written transcript of Putin's interview. Here's the excerpt discussing homosexuality (after the jump):
-- Andrew Marr (BBC): A lot of British politicians and celebrities, including Elton John, express concerns over the attitude towards homosexuals in Russia. I would like to ask you, do you think there are fundamental differences between the attitude towards homosexuals in the West and in Russia? Do you think homosexuals are born or made? And what does the concept of propaganda imply, is it philosophical?
-- Vladimir Putin: You know, I am not in a position to answer the part of your question concerning homosexuals being born or made. This is beyond my professional interest, and I just can’t give you a qualified reply. And as I can’t give you a qualified reply, I would just prefer to leave it at that. And as for the attitude towards individuals of non-traditional sexual orientation, yes, I can give you quite a detailed reply. I would like to draw your attention to the fact, that in Russia, as opposed to one third of the world’s countries, there is no criminal liability for homosexuality. 70 countries in the world have criminal liability for homosexuality, and seven countries out of these 70 enforce the death penalty for homosexuality. And what does that mean? Does it mean that we should cancel all major sport events in those countries? I guess not.
The Soviet Union had criminal liability for homosexuality, today’s Russia doesn’t have such criminal liability. In our country, all people are absolutely equal regardless of their religion, sex, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. Everybody is equal. We have recently only passed a law prohibiting propaganda, and not of homosexuality only, but of homosexuality and child abuse, child sexual abuse. But this has nothing in common with persecuting individuals for their sexual orientation. And there is a world of difference between these things. So there is no danger for individuals of non-traditional sexual orientation who are planning to come to the Games as guests or participants.
-- Andrew Marr: And as for the Orthodox Church, it calls for returning criminal liability for homosexuality. What is your opinion about that?
-- Vladimir Putin: According to the law, the church is separate from the state and has the right to have its own point of view. I would also like to draw your attention to the fact that almost all traditional world religions are in full solidarity on this topic. And is the position of the Holy See different from that of the Russian Orthodox Church? And does Islam treat individuals with non-traditional sexual orientation in a different manner? It seems so, but this other position consists in a much tougher approach. Those 70 countries I have mentioned mostly belong to the Islamic world, and the ones enforcing death penalty all have Islam as state religion. Thus, there is nothing strange in the Russian Orthodox Church’s opinion as compared to that of other traditional world religions, there is nothing strange in that, but I repeat once again: the opinion of the church is one thing, and the opinion of the state is another thing. The church is separate from the state.
-- Sergey Brilev: Vladimir Vladimirovich, perhaps, to add to the issue. You know, once I was lucky to meet the smartest and the most beautiful girl, and I have been married to her for a long time, well, generally speaking, my sexual orientation removes me a bit from being able to discuss this issue, but the thing is as follows.
All Russians of non-traditional sexual orientation, who I know, ok - not all, but the vast majority are people with excellent careers, who have never in their life-time faced any job restrictions and so on, though against the background of our bill to ban gay propaganda among minors, our country is getting the reputation of being just about the most anti-gay country on the planet, however, to a certain degree quite the opposite.
-- Vladimir Putin: It is not getting the reputation, there are attempts to create it.
-- Sergey Brilev: Yes, I agree. I wonder whether we should review this bill causing all the fuss that has, actually, little to do with its name or content, and to adjust it a bit? Probably with a view to offering not less sex education needed for children, but less sex, in general, available to minors, no matter if it is homosexual or heterosexual, what would be demanded by many people who are quite heterosexual. Or, probably, to really examine this notion. Frankly speaking, I have never come across gay propaganda among minors. Basically, I agree that I do not understand what it is in practice.
-- Vladimir Putin: Why so? Could you read the bill thoroughly, and pay your attention to its name. The bill's name is "Ban on propaganda of pedophilia and homosexuality". The bill banning pedophilia, propaganda of pedophilia and homosexuality. There are countries, including European, where public discussions – I have just talked about this at the meeting with volunteers – for instance, on the possibility to legalize pedophilia currently take place. Public discussions in parliaments. They may do whatever they want, but peoples of the Russian Federation, the Russian people have their own cultural code, own tradition. It's not our business and we do not poke our nose into their affairs, and we ask for the same respect for our traditions and for our culture. My personal view is that the society should look after its children at least to be able to reproduce and not only thanks to migrants, but on its own base. We achieved what we had not experienced for a long time. In 2002, 2003, 2004 it seemed that we would never redress that absolutely terrible situation we had with the demographic crisis. It appeared that it was a demographic pit that would prove to have no bottom and we would continue investing in it endlessly.
And at that time we developed and adopted a program aimed at supporting demography, to increase birth rates in the Russian Federation. Frankly speaking, I was much worried myself: we allocated a big volume of resources, and many experts used to tell me: "Don't do this, anyway, there is such a trend, which is experienced by many European countries. And we won't avoid it as well". This year in Russia, the number of newborns has exceeded the number of deceased for the first time. We achieved a specific positive result. If anybody would like to focus on, so to say, developing the cemetery, they are welcome. But we have different goals: we want the Russian people and other peoples of the Russian Federation to develop and to have historical prospects. And we should clean up everything that impedes us here. But we should do this in a timely and humane manner without offending anybody and without including anybody in a group of secondary people.
It seems to me that the bill we adopted does not hurt anybody. Moreover, people of non-traditional sexual orientation cannot feel like inferior people here, because there is no professional, career or social discrimination against them, by the way. And when they achieve great results, such as, for instance Elton John achieves, who is an extraordinary person, a distinguished musician, and millions of our people sincerely love him with no regard to his sexual orientation, and his sexual orientation does not affect attitudes to him, especially as to a distinguished musician. I think that this quite democratic approach to people of non-traditional sexual orientation alongside with measures aimed to protect children and future demographic development is optimum.
The Gay Mafia's reaction to Russia's assertion of internal sovereignty is proof that they don't merely want tolerance; they want full-blown acceptance and celebration. They want special treatment for gays. In contrast, Russia wants to treat gays no different than anyone else.