A group of Russian activists are holding a tongue-in-cheek “Gays for Putin” rally in support of the president ahead of the upcoming elections.
The rally will take place in St. Petersburg on March 3 and is expected to attract more than 600 LGBTQ people. The organizers of the rally claimed they wished to show the “all-around” support for President Vladimir Putin, whose tenure in office has been marked by virulent persecution of the local queer and trans population.
“We decided to express the impetus of the gay community by openly supporting Vladimir Putin as a presidential candidate,” claimed organizers Vyacheslav Vereshchagin and Alexei Nazarov in a statement.
The men reportedly went to a church to “pray for the success of the good endeavor” after filing for a permit for the rally, according to the Moscow Times.
The LGBTQ activists behind the event urged attendees to illustrate their unwavering adoration with a pro-Putin display of their choosing. Along with the customary rainbow Pride flags, those present at the event are encouraged to hoist signs like “Putin Is Our President!” and “Gays For Putin!” or a loving portrait of the Russian leader.
The suggestion is a pretty pointed jab at the president, who has banned a meme of himself wearing clown makeup in front of a rainbow flag.
Activists announced the rally following a satirical PSA aired by the Kremlin warning of the dangers of not voting in next month’s presidential elections. In the three-minute long segment, a Russian man who vows to stay home on March 17 wakes up with a homosexual at his table. He has a nightmare the government has assigned Russian couples a gay housemate for a week.
The dream reaches a fever pitch when he wakes up to his new roommate, femininely attired in a flowy pink shirt, cuddling him in bed.
The video, which has garnered millions of views, has sparked widespread outrage in the Eurasian country. Ksenia Sobchak, one of the seven candidates facing off against Putin in the election, called it “vile” in an Instagram post.
“Presenting LGBTQ people as a threat in a homophobic country is no joke,” said Sobchak, who is the daughter of Putin’s mentor.
Her response is a reference to the 2013 anti-LGBTQ propaganda law forbidding the spread of information on “nontraditional sexual relationships” to minorsone which led to a total crackdown on queer life. Since that bill unanimously passed the Russian Duma five years ago, hate crimes against LGBTQ people have doubled.
Some LGBTQ activists, however, have questioned whether the “Gays for Putin” rally is the best way to highlight the Kremlin’s homophobic recordwhich recently includes persecuting a gay couple who sought to have their foreign marriage recognized in Russia.
Russian LGBTQ Network Director Mikhail Tumasov doesn’t see what’s funny about bigotry.
“It is a joke made by some gay activists and I am not sure that it is funny at all, but everyone has right to do what he wants to,” Tumasov told the LGBTQ website Gay Star News in an interview.
Photo by Omer Messinger/NurPhoto via Getty Images