The Moscow branch of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s United Russia Party is responsible for the flag.
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Putin’s United Russia Party responsible for the “straight flag”
Party officials unveiled the flag on Russia’s Day of Family, Love and Fidelity, claiming that it was made to honor traditional Russian values. At the same time, the flag was given its own hashtag, which means #realfamily.
The flag shows a father, a mother and three children holding hands. The Izvestia newspaper reported that the Deputy leader of the Moscow branch of United Russia, Aleksey Lisovenko, said: “This is our answer to same sex marriages, this mockery of the very concept of family. We must prevent gay fever in our country and support traditional values.”
“We are speaking of the traditional family. We mean the average standard Russian family that is ours: mother, father and three children,” he continued.
Public takes to social media to react to flag
News of the flag ignited debate on Twitter, with some witty responses. One user, who calls himself Chris Jones, tweeted: “Erk. Russia’s Straight Family Pride flag…I mean, statistically speaking one of those kids is probably gay…”
Felicity Morse added: “Moscow branch of Putin’s United Russia party creates ‘straight pride’ flag. GIVE ME ALL FACES AND ALL THE PALMS.”
Many social media users pointed out that the flag is very similar to that used by La Manif Pour Tous, a French group which also opposes gay marriage. A number of users claimed that United Russia may need to answer a plagiarism case given the similarities, but the French group only uses 2 children rather than United Russia’s 3.
The rainbow flag has featured heavily in the news over the past few weeks, primarily thanks to the U.S. vote which approved same-sex marriage across the country. The White House was lit up in the colors of the rainbow following the decision, and supporters celebrated a massive victory for civil rights.
Facebook even got involved, releasing a tool which allowed users to add a rainbow overlay to their profile picture in order to show their support for the decision. St. Petersburg lawmaker Vitaly Milonov proposed that Facebook be completely banned in Russia because of its promotion of the rainbow flag.
Russia horrified by improvements to LGBT rights
Some figures in Russia have accused the U.S. of following a policy of “gayification,” and the reactions have sometimes been extreme. As well as the proposed Facebook ban, a senior figure in the Russian Orthodox church warned followers that the U.S. wanted to “steal your soul.”
Although homosexuality is not illegal in Russia, a 2013 law bans symbols which promote “non-traditional” values. Gay Pride marches, which are held in many cities around the world, are banned in Russia, and activists are consistently arrested for attempting to take part in them.
However the vote did provoke outrage in some quarters, as did the appropriation of a classic image. An artist used the iconic Iwo Jima flag-raising image, but replaced the stars and stripes with the gay pride flag. Ed Freeman made the image over 10 years ago, but it was published once again following the vote. This time around, he received online abuse and even a death threat.
The Internet also went wild over a video showing a 7-year-old brandishing the rainbow flag at a man preaching homophobia at a festival in Ohio. All of this attention for the gay pride movement appears to have provoked a response from Russia, where the LGBT community suffers serious persecution.
Social conservatism allows Putin to control Russian population
The release of the flag may be another way that Putin is attempting to portray the U.S. as a morally bankrupt state which wants to corrupt Russia and its traditional values. The demonization of Washington is one way in which the Kremlin is fostering a sense of unity in Russia, and successfully masking the country’s ongoing economic troubles behind a wave of patriotism.
A spokesperson for UK-based LGBT rights charity Stonewall said: “A #realfamily is not determined by sexual orientation or gender identity, but love. That sentiment is certainly missing from this flag as is, in our opinion, a splash more colour. It’s also another example of how much work we still have left to do to combat homophobic, biphobic and transphobic attitudes and behaviours.”
With opposition to liberal social policies acting as a unifying factor for the Russian population, do not expect the situation to change for the country’s LGBT community in the near future.