Vitaly Milonov, known for his staunch campaigning against ‘gay propaganda’, awarded with one of the country’s highest civilian honours
Russian president Vladimir Putin has given a state honour to a lawmaker well known for his efforts to ban “gay propaganda” and prosecute western pop stars that support LGBT rights, only a day after Sir Elton John said he wanted to meet Putin to talk about his “ridiculous” attitude towards gay people.
Putin awarded Vitaly Milonov, a St Petersburg lawmaker, a medal of the order “For Service to the Fatherland” in the second degree, according to a decree published last Tuesday but only reported by the mainstream media on Sunday. Milonov was recognised for his “active lawmaking efforts and many years of honest work”.
That work has included relentless anti-gay campaigning. In 2012, Milonov authored a controversial St. Petersburg law banning the “propaganda of homosexuality and paedophilia among minors”, which helped inspire Russia’s 2013 national law against the “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations among minors”. Activists have said the laws have increased homophobic violence, especially against teenagers.
The law, as well as Putin’s statement last year that gay visitors to Russia would be fine as long as they “leave the kids alone”, attracted criticism from the singer this weekend during a trip to Ukraine, which also has a track record of homophobic violence. In an interview with the BBC, he said he would like to meet Putin to discuss his “isolated and prejudiced” attitude toward gay people.
In response, Milonov told radio station RSN that the singer shouldn’t distract the president with “rainbow affairs” and offered to meet with the musician to discuss how he is “deeply and systematically mistaken”.
Milonov told the Guardian he thought John was ill-informed and defended the the law. “Your singer offered to meet with our president to discuss an irrelevant topic,” Milonov said. “It’s not worth it to distract the president with such nonsense. If he’s ready to learn about how we don’t categorise people by any certain characteristics in Russia, I’m happy to explain it to him.”
This is not the first time Milonov has taken on a musician over gay rights. In 2012, he attempted to bring Madonna and Lady Gaga to court after they spoke in support of LGBT rights at their concerts in Russia. Milonov later filed a complaint over visa regulations with the prosecutor general, which subsequently found that the two singers had violated the terms of their cultural exchange visas during their visits.
He also filed a complaint against Lena Klimova, the founder of the Deti-404 online support group for LGBT teenagers, who was eventually fined under Russia’s gay propaganda law in a separate case. The lawmaker recently called her a “viper, Christless pagan and a non-human” in an interview with Govorit Moskva.
Milonov has been trying to create a “moral police” to fight against prostitution and what he deems homosexual propaganda, saying last week he would like to become head of a “spiritual Constantinople” in Russia with no alcoholics, drug addicts, prostitutes or gay people. This month, he asked Dmitry Medvedev, the prime minister, to create a national television channel to popularise farming and explain how to make cheeses that have been banned under Russia’s embargo of many western foods, arguing this could help establish Russia’s “spiritual and political independence”.
Besides Milonov, Putin’s decree was awarded to many other public figures, including cosmonaut Sergei Ryazansky, who was given the Hero of the Russian Federation honour for his 166-day mission to the International Space Station in 2013-14.