Leonid Niktinsky: Chuichenko and the gay community – on the tragic and comical nature of the suit filed by the Ministry of Justice with the Supreme Court

18 November 2023

by Leonid Nikitinsky

Source: Novaya gazeta

The initiative of the Ministry of Justice, which filed an administrative suit with the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation to recognize the “international LGBT movement” as an extremist organization, threatens thousands of law-abiding Russians with a real tragedy. But the story starts out as a comedy, due to the very specifics of legal proceedings.

Whom does the Russian Ministry of Justice, headed by Konstantin Chuichenko, expect to see opposite them in the Supreme Court on November 30? The person representing the defendant must have power of attorney for the organization’s leader, but no such organization — let alone its leader — exists, at least not in the Russian Federation. Let’s say some dedicated individual comes along and declares themselves a representative of LGBT people, so to speak, by nature, ipso facto. But then immediately after the suit is heard (which is hard to doubt will happen) this individual will find themselves a “participant of an extremist organization.” Take them to a pre-trial detention center, straight away.

And what should the court do? They won’t even be able to postpone the hearing due to the defendant’s failure to appear, since they sent no summons. 

The Ministry of Justice (again: Justice) has put the Supreme Court in a rather difficult position. Otherwise, this initiative fits into the current political trend, just hardly into the current legislation.

Of course, I would like to read about the specific signs of extremism that the Ministry of Justice found in the actions and/or statements of certain LGBT persons, but for now it’s difficult to even imagine how to obtain the text of this document (although by law it should have been sent to the defendant when it was sent to the Supreme Court’s office). Perhaps one of the media personalities who openly identifies as homosexual or lesbian wrote something that offended believers (but not even all believers, not that anyone has conducted such a survey) and thus “sown religious discord,” but what about the rest, of whom there are thousands, with probably hundreds of them speaking openly about their orientation? I doubt that that the administrative plaintiff will present the court with a manual or plan that requires all members of the “organization” (which does not exist) to commit blasphemy in churches and mosques.

I grew up in the 1960s and ’70s, and personally it still bewilders me when someone openly announces their non-traditional orientation, as if with pride. But there’s no reason for stigma either, much less legal liability. The Ministry of Justice isn’t following the Duma’s earlier approach of extending responsibility for gay propaganda among minors to adults. 

In its propagandist zeal — and this “lawsuit” is primarily propaganda and self-promotion — the Ministry of Justice is actually proposing to equate any statement of LGBT identity with “extremism.”

During my time as a member of the Human Rights Council, I was once invited by Mikhail Fedotov to meet with a delegation from the North Caucasus. The meeting was about Elena Milashina’s publication concerning the tragic fate of gay people in Chechnya, so it was mainly me who had to argue with the members of the delegation, of whom there were eight. Their main thesis? There are no gay people in the North Caucasus. They simply would not accept any objections that it’s natural, if not yet explained, for a certain proportion of gay people to appear in the population of any ethnic group.

Well, we can guess why there are actually no gay people there — it’s what Milashina wrote about. But their absence in Chechnya is not the result of natural or even juridical laws. It’s (cruel) ethics, and they vary from community to community, evolving and changing. 

Ethical problems are always controversial and highly complex; cutting them down with the axe of the Criminal Code is barbaric, and the state’s crooked intrusion into the sphere of ethics bears the markers of a totalitarian society.

For a liberal, which I consider myself to be, the LGBT problem is an indication of an attitude towards any minorities, including, for example, opponents of the special military operation. Do these people deserve the right to vote and the right to representation? Should we be listening to them, or do they need to be brutally suppressed? As it develops, civilization has tended to proceed along the line of giving a voice to an ever wider range of people, including minorities. The Ministry of Justice — but not even just the Ministry of Justice, we could go higher — proposes to reverse this essentially ethical process.

I don’t think they will succeed, even if the Supreme Court somehow contrives to consider the “suit.” But by and large there won’t be any news about that either.

Translated by Nina dePalma

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