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June 20, 2017

Pride in the Capital

By Charlotte Gliserman

On June 10th, Human Rights First celebrated Pride Month by participating in Washington, D.C.’s Capital Pride Parade. Surrounded by tens of thousands of “unapologetically proud” LGBT people and allies, we were reminded of how far we’ve come as nation, how much further we need to go, and that we can never forget the ongoing struggle of LGBT communities around the world. 

The first LGBT pride march was held on the first anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall Riots in New York City. Since then, Pride has become a symbol of LGBT visibility, progress, and the continued battle for equality. But in many parts of the world, pride marches remain a target for violence and persecution, and a motivator for oppressive governments’ anti-LGBT legislation.

In few places is that as evident as in Russia.

In 2013, under the auspices of protecting "family values," Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a notorious anti-gay propaganda law prohibiting the distribution of materials promoting “non-traditional” sexual relations to minors. This law has been used to uphold the constitutionality of the one-hundred-year ban on pride parades in Moscow and to justify crackdowns on LGBT events and demonstrations across Russia. The Russian government has systematically denied parade permits to LGBT groups, arrested pro-LGBT demonstrators at marches like the 2015 International Women’s Day protests, and failed to investigate brutal hate crimes against LGBT people at these events.

Combined with homophobic comments from Putin and other top officials, the ban provides an air of legitimacy for the persecution of the LGBT community. The recent torture, murder, and detention of gay and bisexual men in Chechnya demonstrate the full extent of the danger of this anti-LGBT climate.

A group of Russian asylum seekers fleeing these crises marched in the Capital Pride Parade with Human Rights First. Many displayed pro-LGBT images that are banned under Russia’s anti-propaganda law. Others held signs that read “Eyes On Chechnya” and “My First Pride Without Fear.” 

All individuals, regardless of where they are born, deserve to live and love openly without fear. Until all LGBT people are guaranteed that right, we, as Americans, must hold our government accountable to promoting the human rights of LGBT people and pressing foreign governments to protect all of their citizens.