Putin on Gays in Russia: “Just leave kids alone, please.”
(Updated Jan. 20)

The latest homophobic remark from Russian President Vladimir Putin: When asked earlier today about gays in Russia, he commented, “One can feel calm and at ease. Just leave kids alone, please.”

The Washington Post suggests that Putin meant the comment to be reassuring to those concerned about Russia’s notorious anti-gay law, which shows just how out of touch he is.

To state the obvious (or what I wish were obvious to Putin), it is homophobia and the anti-gay policies of governments like Russia’s—(and Nigeria‘s to name just one other)—that wreck havoc on young people’s lives. Gays interacting with youth is not the problem. (Indeed, it could be one part of the solution.)

[January 20 Update: Putin opened his mouth again over the weekend, and nothing better came out. The Associated Press reports that he “offered new assurances to gay athletes and fans attending the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics next month.” Were these “new assurances” as sickening as his previous statements? Of course: Putin “defended Russia’s anti-gay law by equating gays with pedophiles and said Russia needs to ‘cleanse’ itself of homosexuality if it wants to increase its birth rate.” The AP quotes him as saying that “anything that gets in the way of [increasing the birth rate is something] we should clean up.” As if that’s not bad enough, the AP notes that in making these statements, Putin used a Russian word “usually reserved for military operations.” Despite all this, Putin says “[t]here are no fears for people with this nontraditional orientation who plan to come to Sochi as guests or participants.” In related news, the New York Times has a new editorial criticizing the Russian President for his recent homophobic statements. The editorial concludes by observing that Putin’s “repeated and clumsy references to what are essentially his own prejudices, since glorified by the state, only make Sochi more political and less inviting to world visitors.”]

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