Russian voters have approved a constitutional referendum defining marriage exclusively as a union between one man and one woman.
In addition to banning marriage equality, the approved referendum included more than 200 constitutional amendments, including ones that enable the president to fire federal justices, to fire Supreme Justices following approval by the Federation Council, and to extend presidential term limits — enabling President Vladimir Putin to stay in office until 2036.
The proposals, voted on by the public over seven days, were approved by more than three-quarters of all voters, though opposition parties allege that the referendum was rigged in favor of Putin from the start, reports NBC News.
In the run-up to the vote, Putin and his allies had attempted to gin up support for the constitutional changes by exploiting the gay marriage vote, including an anti-gay commercial where an orphaned boy finds out he is being adopted by a gay couple.
In the commercial, the especially effeminate member of the couple pulls out a dress for the boy to wear, while the orphanage officials look on in horror.
“What Russia do you choose?” the voiceover says. “Decide the future of the country. Vote for the amendments to the constitution.”
It is hard to gauge what effect the commercial and other anti-gay propaganda may have played in drumming up support for the constitutional changes, but a recent poll from April finds hostile attitudes continue to persist, with half of all Russians saying they believe gays and lesbians should either be “eliminated” or isolated from Russian society.
Prior to the vote, the Russian LGBTQ Network issued a statement questioning the motives of those behind the referendum, arguing that the purpose of the marriage ban and other “reforms” were simply an attempt to maintain Putin’s stranglehold on power.
The ban on marriage equality comes on the heels of the country’s 2013 “gay propaganda” law, which criminalizes the distribution of materials that promote or condone homosexuality and same-sex relationships, on the premise that such materials will be easily accessed by minors, and could influence the opinions toward homosexuality.
Two years ago, the country banned all Pride events, and last year, the government took action to prevent LGBTQ groups from officially registering in the country.
The Human Rights Campaign denounced the passage of the marriage ban and the extension of Putin’s term, calling the Russian president a “threat to the human rights of all.”
“Russia is tripling down on its attacks on the basic human rights and dignity of LGBTQ people by adding constitutional prohibitions against marriage equality,” HRC President Alphonso David said in a statement.
“Putin and his administration used propaganda brochures leading up to the election promising a return to ‘traditional family values,’ using marriage between loving couples as a wedge to push through his nefarious agenda. It is shameful, manipulative and malicious.”
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