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  #1    
Old January 3rd, 2014 (01:59 PM).
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There are plenty of reasons to be cynical about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s motivation in announcing an amnesty last month for more than 20,000 prisoners, including the dissident punk rockers Cloyster Riot, detained Greenpeace activists, some leaders of last year’s Bolotnaya Square protests, and most surprisingly, oligarch turned anti-Kremlin icon Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who has languished in prison for more than a decade. Putin is following the old Soviet and tsarist tradition of amnesties to mark major anniversaries – in this case the 20th anniversary of Russia’s 1993 constitution – but he is also surely considering the impact on Russia’s image in advance of the February Sochi Olympics.

Russia’s human rights record still falls far short of European and international standards, and it would be naïve to assume that this amnesty represents any kind of transformation in Putin’s thinking about human rights and democracy. Yet at this moment, one vital fact should not be overlooked: real progress has now been made on one of the most persistently contentious items on the Russia-West agenda.

Human rights and political prisoners especially have been an obstacle to pragmatic cooperation on everything from counter-terrorism to trade and investment. The human rights situation was cited among the reasons for the presidents of France and Germany to skip the Sochi games, and was an important backdrop to the Obama administration’s frustration with Russia amid the apparent collapse of the “reset” agenda over the past year. It was also the single biggest justification for passage one year ago of the Magnitsky Act, which imposed financial and travel sanctions on Russian officials accused of abuses.

Of course human rights is not the only item on the U.S.-Russia agenda, nor is it the only area of conflict with the Kremlin. There are also tensions over Ukraine, Syria and the wider Middle East, Afghanistan, and Central Asia, to name just a few. But each of these urgent challenges is far more likely to be resolved through effective dialogue and engagement between Russia and the West than via confrontation and isolation. Increasingly, the rift over human rights – which some have termed a “values gap” – has stood in the way of such pragmatic dialogue.

For Western rhetoric about the importance of human rights to be taken seriously, it must also acknowledge and reward Russia when positive steps are taken. Otherwise it is seen merely as a fig leaf for antipathy toward Russia's political leaders, or as part of America’s continuing efforts to topple regimes it dislikes around the globe. This view is held not just by Russian political elites but by ordinary people as well.

Offering concrete rewards in exchange for progress on human rights was precisely the sort of conditionality that the European Union has sought to impose on Ukraine's leadership over the imprisonment of Yulia Tymoshenko and other reforms. So far, it has failed to produce the desired outcome in Ukraine. Yet Putin's amnesty is, among other things, an acknowledgment of the rhetorical and political impact of the West’s position, and the weight Putin places on international legitimacy, especially when he and Russia are in the spotlight during the Sochi Olympics.

Now is therefore a key opportunity to benefit from such conditionality with Russia by recognizing progress on an important precondition for better relations. One way to do this would be by ratcheting back the punitive rolls of the Magnitsky Act, rather than expanding them as some in Congress have recently advocated.

Another would be for top U.S. and European politicians to visit Russia. To be sure, Russia's restrictive NGO and anti-gay laws will continue to provide a justification for Western leaders not to attend Sochi. Moreover, acute disagreement over the Middle East and Russia’s post-Soviet neighborhood will not have faded by February. Yet if last month’s amnesty underscores anything it is that Sochi offers a vital chance to engage on the most sensitive issues and to exert influence.

Like Soviet and tsarist amnesties, this is a limited time opportunity. Western leaders will have the most leverage if the prospect of enhanced international legitimacy through high level visits before, during, and after the Sochi games is clearly back on the table. Now is the time for a strong and decisive new push for engagement with Russia.
We criticize and seek to punish Russia all the time for their record on human rights, even when they make changes to their old ways. But should we take this chance to engage Russia and bring it closer to the West? Russia may still occurs to many of us as "bad", but should recognition be made where it is due?

Is there a silver lining to anything Russia does? More broadly, do we unfairly criticize Russia and other countries we don't like, and play our own part in keeping them isolated? After all, friendship and enmity is a two-way road, isn't it?

Other thoughts?

source: http://globalpublicsquare.blogs.cnn.com/2014/01/02/putins-amnesty-is-an-opening-for-the-west/?hpt=wo_c2
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Old January 3rd, 2014 (04:19 PM).
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Russia is a terribly disenfranchised country suffering beneath the rule of a government that does not care for human rights whatsoever. Perhaps becoming more involved with Russia would provoke more discussion on human rights and incite change. It does not necessarily have to be the United States; it can be any "1st world" country.
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Old January 4th, 2014 (06:30 AM). Edited January 4th, 2014 by zakisrage.
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I think Western criticism only makes things in Russia worse, coupled with Russia's corrupt leadership and massive social inequality. I mean, there's a sharp divide between wealthy Russians who can afford expensive vacations abroad and poor Russians who can barely get by. But getting back to the Western world...first world countries tend to be very critical of other countries, seeing them as beneath them due to poorer human rights. The British and the Americans are masters at bashing non-first world countries.

In addition to human rights, Russia is not trusted due to its prior history as a communist state and because Russians in general are stereotyped as cold-hearted, stoic, racist people. I wish that people would look at Russia as a country instead of a villain on the world stage. Entire countries can't be evil.
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Old January 29th, 2014 (03:08 PM).
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I think so long as Putin remains in power, opening up Russia to the west is damn near impossible. He's far too aggressive with the U.S. and Obama, in particular, for that to happen. That, and he has a stranglehold on power there. Russia will need to literally de-putinize for any real progress to be made in that regard.
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Old January 29th, 2014 (03:18 PM).
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I love Russia, and would love to see the US have more ties to them, but only after they rid themselves of the anti-gay law that prevents me and my boyfriend from going there and being seen together.

And honestly, its not really Puppe-I mean Putin, but instead the puppet masters in the Orthodox Church that are causing all these human rights violations to occur. They are too powerful in their government. Personally, I think Putin is cute, but that is just me.

I have nothing against most Russians, just those who are in fact homophobic.
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Old January 29th, 2014 (05:30 PM).
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I think it's rather unfair that the West can criticise anyone on human rights when we're so bad at upholding them ourselves. I'm sure Russia is terrible in this regard, but for Obama and European leaders to act as if they stand on some higher moral ground or are the standard for justice is laughable. We exploit rights and lives wherever we see fit, Russia is no different.

We only put the pressure on because there's some benefit to doing so. Our hyperpower status is the only thing that makes that pressure potent and our opinion relevant, and we play that to great effect.
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Old January 31st, 2014 (03:54 AM).
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From what I see, because I from Russian controlled Republic of Buryatia, my views will be different than Western people on this issue. Russia is not bad country, but I think my country is neutral. Equal amount of bad and good.

Human rights issue I think isn't as bad as what people in America or other western countries think. Exception for the anti-gay mobs and random assassinations before. Russia is new to democracy, we have thousands of years of dictatorships. So the current governement now is big step towards freedom and democracy. Eventually, Russia will become similar to America, but for now it is not used to American style Democracy yet. Human Rights is currently getting better.

I think Americans are being too harsh on Russia. We are actually participating on the war on terrorism by taking down terrorists in Chechnya, Kazakhstan, Kyrgzstan, and other parts of Central Asia. We are trying our best to weaken Islamic radicals. The anti gay policies in Russia comes from tradition. Although I don't like the rules and the violent anti gay mobs, but gay is seen as bad in Russia. Russia keep 80 year old beliefs. I myself think that gays should not be discriminated, but there are just many people there that don't like gay people because of tradition.

If America keeps closing to Russia, they will lose potential ally that would help them on the War on Terror. They seem to forgot that we helped them on the Boston Bombing case. Also Russia today is closer to America than any time in Russian history.
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Old January 31st, 2014 (11:51 AM).
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Quote originally posted by Lord Kraith 2:
From what I see, because I from Russian controlled Republic of Buryatia, my views will be different than Western people on this issue. Russia is not bad country, but I think my country is neutral. Equal amount of bad and good.

Human rights issue I think isn't as bad as what people in America or other western countries think. Exception for the anti-gay mobs and random assassinations before. Russia is new to democracy, we have thousands of years of dictatorships. So the current governement now is big step towards freedom and democracy. Eventually, Russia will become similar to America, but for now it is not used to American style Democracy yet. Human Rights is currently getting better.

I think Americans are being too harsh on Russia. We are actually participating on the war on terrorism by taking down terrorists in Chechnya, Kazakhstan, Kyrgzstan, and other parts of Central Asia. We are trying our best to weaken Islamic radicals. The anti gay policies in Russia comes from tradition. Although I don't like the rules and the violent anti gay mobs, but gay is seen as bad in Russia. Russia keep 80 year old beliefs. I myself think that gays should not be discriminated, but there are just many people there that don't like gay people because of tradition.

If America keeps closing to Russia, they will lose potential ally that would help them on the War on Terror. They seem to forgot that we helped them on the Boston Bombing case. Also Russia today is closer to America than any time in Russian history.
This is all true, and as I have said before, I love Russia. Your culture is quite breathtaking. I mean, St. Petersburg Square alone is worth going to see. Add in the countrysides, and the beautiful blending of tradition and modern day, its one of the top places I want to visit some day. Its just, being gay kind of makes that a bit dangerous, as does being an American. While I understand that it isn't all Russians who think like Tesak, its just uncomfortable to think that if I held my boyfriend's hand in public, we'd both have a chance to be beaten and deported. That is the only issue I have with Russian society today. And I get that it isn't the fault of the younger generations, its the fault of the older generations and those in power.
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Old January 31st, 2014 (11:53 AM).
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Quote originally posted by Beloved:
This is all true, and as I have said before, I love Russia. Your culture is quite breathtaking. I mean, St. Petersburg Square alone is worth going to see. Add in the countrysides, and the beautiful blending of tradition and modern day, its one of the top places I want to visit some day. Its just, being gay kind of makes that a bit dangerous, as does being an American. While I understand that it isn't all Russians who think like Tesak, its just uncomfortable to think that if I held my boyfriend's hand in public, we'd both have a chance to be beaten and deported. That is the only issue I have with Russian society today. And I get that it isn't the fault of the younger generations, its the fault of the older generations and those in power.
Are you sure it's only the older generation? Iirc the people conducting all the sexual and physical abuses of gays in Russia are youth.
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Old January 31st, 2014 (12:01 PM).
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Quote originally posted by BlahISuck:
Are you sure it's only the older generation? Iirc the people conducting all the sexual and physical abuses of gays in Russia are youth.
Guided by those older than them. Youths are impressionable, and if they desire the attention or praise of someone, will go to great lengths to get it. That is why gangs put people to such extreme tests in order to let someone in. If the person wants their idol, or whatever they are, to notice them, they will do nearly anything.
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Old January 31st, 2014 (12:17 PM).
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Quote originally posted by Beloved:
Guided by those older than them. Youths are impressionable, and if they desire the attention or praise of someone, will go to great lengths to get it. That is why gangs put people to such extreme tests in order to let someone in. If the person wants their idol, or whatever they are, to notice them, they will do nearly anything.
Are you speculating, or do you know this for sure? Couldn't it be that there are just some prejudiced youth as well?

Not that it should mean anything either way. It's not a problem with Russian society, it's a problem with some people who happen to be Russian. You cannot fault an entire nation's citisenry because of an unsanctioned problem, no matter how widespread.
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Old January 31st, 2014 (02:12 PM).
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Quote originally posted by LoudSilence:
Are you speculating, or do you know this for sure? Couldn't it be that there are just some prejudiced youth as well?

Not that it should mean anything either way. It's not a problem with Russian society, it's a problem with some people who happen to be Russian. You cannot fault an entire nation's citisenry because of an unsanctioned problem, no matter how widespread.
Tell me, where do kids learn 90% of what they believe? From their parents. That is why racism still exists in the USA, as well as every other country in the world. The parents, teachers, or whoever the child looks up to slanders an entire group of people, and the child imitates it later in life. We can attempt to show them that racism and hatred is wrong, but if teachers only spend 40 hours a week with the kids, while the parents spend so much more time with them, which behavior is more likely to stick?

Perfect example, and sorry for going off subject, is me. My dad was always working, rarely ever home, so I barely knew the man. To me, when I was 13, shaving my legs was natural. Getting rid of body hair was acceptable, and expected, simply because I watched my mom as a kid shave her legs after a shower, with a towel on of course. The thought of a guy wearing eyeliner always seemed natural, so when my dad was home early one day, and saw me with it on after school and freaked out, I was confused.

Its more psychological and cultural than anything else. Traditions normally are.
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Old January 31st, 2014 (02:19 PM).
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I think there might have been an undercurrent of homophobia throughout Russian society that even the Soviets couldn't root out. I'm nowhere near an expert on Russian society though.
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Old January 31st, 2014 (02:29 PM).
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Quote originally posted by BlahISuck:
We criticize and seek to punish Russia all the time for their record on human rights, even when they make changes to their old ways. But should we take this chance to engage Russia and bring it closer to the West? Russia may still occurs to many of us as "bad", but should recognition be made where it is due?

Is there a silver lining to anything Russia does? More broadly, do we unfairly criticize Russia and other countries we don't like, and play our own part in keeping them isolated? After all, friendship and enmity is a two-way road, isn't it?

Other thoughts?

source: http://globalpublicsquare.blogs.cnn.com/2014/01/02/putins-amnesty-is-an-opening-for-the-west/?hpt=wo_c2
Whether or not they want to join the rest of the civilized world is up to them. It's a bit arrogant to think that our fairness and concern for human rights will just rub off on other nations if we're nice to them. They're an entire country with their own history and culture who make their own decisions. If they don't want to change, then let them remain isolated. If they want to join the rest of the civilized world, the onus is on them to change.
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Old January 31st, 2014 (02:31 PM).
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I really don't think we can exclude Russia, let alone most if any countries, from the civilized world.
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Old January 31st, 2014 (03:28 PM).
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Quote originally posted by BlahISuck:
I think there might have been an undercurrent of homophobia throughout Russian society that even the Soviets couldn't root out. I'm nowhere near an expert on Russian society though.
I believe that modern Russia is more open than during Soviet times. It's just that homophobia is part of their culture still. America used to be homophobic but eventually was gone. Russia is going through the same process but just slower and more later in history.
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Old January 31st, 2014 (05:28 PM).
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American homophobia gone? Not by a long shot. It's alive and well and government supported, and I dare say, even funded. A number of politicians in the U.S. have even spoken up in support of the Russian law that prohibits "gay propaganda".
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Old January 31st, 2014 (07:14 PM).
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Quote originally posted by Alessi_sys:
American homophobia gone? Not by a long shot. It's alive and well and government supported, and I dare say, even funded. A number of politicians in the U.S. have even spoken up in support of the Russian law that prohibits "gay propaganda".
Sorry, I didn't notice that, but it could be that there are more people that accepts gays in America than Russia.
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Old January 31st, 2014 (08:24 PM).
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Quote originally posted by Alessi_sys:
American homophobia gone? Not by a long shot. It's alive and well and government supported, and I dare say, even funded. A number of politicians in the U.S. have even spoken up in support of the Russian law that prohibits "gay propaganda".
Ain't that the truth. Sad part is that Rob Portman, a great man, will probably never run for President, simply because he would be too tied up in red tape and politics to make any real progress on the matter.
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Old February 1st, 2014 (08:20 AM).
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Quote originally posted by Beloved:
Tell me, where do kids learn 90% of what they believe? From their parents. That is why racism still exists in the USA, as well as every other country in the world. The parents, teachers, or whoever the child looks up to slanders an entire group of people, and the child imitates it later in life. We can attempt to show them that racism and hatred is wrong, but if teachers only spend 40 hours a week with the kids, while the parents spend so much more time with them, which behavior is more likely to stick?
Yes but then you could say the same thing about their parents. Cultural influence had to have taken a part at some point.

Quote originally posted by zomgitscathy:
Whether or not they want to join the rest of the civilized world is up to them. It's a bit arrogant to think that our fairness and concern for human rights will just rub off on other nations if we're nice to them. They're an entire country with their own history and culture who make their own decisions. If they don't want to change, then let them remain isolated. If they want to join the rest of the civilized world, the onus is on them to change.
What is the "civilised world"? What is the standard for civility, modernity? For fairness?

And I dunno, Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, proxy wars, support of Israeli occupation, etc...whatever being "concerned" is, we certainly aren't -- we are instead pretty selective in where we think rights ought to be upheld.

Quote originally posted by Lord Kraith 2:
Sorry, I didn't notice that, but it could be that there are more people that accepts gays in America than Russia.
It doesn't make Russia any better or worse than America, though. There are both prejudiced people and sensible people the world over. I dunno why we're comparing them as if America is the standard for everything.
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Old February 1st, 2014 (08:35 AM).
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Quote originally posted by LoudSilence:

And I dunno, Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, proxy wars, support of Israeli occupation, etc...whatever being "concerned" is, we certainly aren't -- we are instead pretty selective in where we think rights ought to be upheld.



It doesn't make Russia any better or worse than America, though. There are both prejudiced people and sensible people the world over. I dunno why we're comparing them as if America is the standard for everything.

Well, I mean in terms of how they treat their own citizens (people detained in Guantanamo aren't citizens). I mean, I'll be the first to admit that when it comes to the way we treat the rest of the world, our record is abysmal. But I think the common denominator of what I'm referring to as the civilized world is that they all treat their own people with some semblance of fairness and equality.
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Old February 5th, 2014 (01:31 PM).
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OpEd from the Washington Post:

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The U.S. hypocrisy over Russia’s anti-gay laws

By Ian Ayres and William Eskridge, Published: January 31
Ian Ayres and William Eskridge are law professors at Yale University.


Controversy over a Russian law that prohibits advocacy of homosexuality threatens to overshadow athletic competition at the upcoming Sochi Olympics. Thoughtful world leaders, including President Obama, have criticized Russia for stigmatizing gay identity.

Many of these critics find it hard to believe that in 2014 a modern industrial government would have this kind of medieval language in its statutory code:
  • “Materials adopted by a local school board . . . shall . . . comply with state law and state board rules . . . prohibiting instruction . . . in the advocacy of homosexuality.”
  • “Propaganda of homosexualism among minors is punishable by an administrative fine.”
  • “No district shall include in its course of study instruction which: 1. Promotes a homosexual life-style. 2. Portrays homosexuality as a positive alternative life-style. 3. Suggests that some methods of sex are safe methods of homosexual sex.”
  • “[I]nstruction relating to sexual education or sexually transmitted diseases should include . . . emphasis, provided in a factual manner and from a public health perspective, that homosexuality is not a lifestyle acceptable to the general public and that homosexual conduct is a criminal offense.”

Amid the rush to condemn Russia’s legislation, however, it is useful to recognize that only the second quoted provision comes from the Russian statute.

The other three come from statutes in the United States. It is Utah that prohibits “the advocacy of homosexuality.” Arizona prohibits portrayals of homosexuality as a “positive alternative life-style” and has legislatively determined that it is inappropriate to even suggest to children that there are “safe methods of homosexual sex.” Alabama and Texas mandate that sex-education classes emphasize that homosexuality is “not a lifestyle acceptable to the general public.” Moreover, the Alabama and Texas statutes mandate that children be taught that “homosexual conduct is a criminal offense” even though criminalizing private, consensual homosexual conduct has been unconstitutional since 2003.

Eight U.S. states, and several cities and counties, have some version of what we call “no promo homo” provisions. Before the United States condemns the Russian statute’s infringement of free speech and academic freedom, it should recognize that our own republican forms of government have repeatedly given rise to analogous restrictions.

It is no coincidence that these examples focus on what must and must not be said to children. An explanatory note accompanying the 2013 Russian legislation makes clear that the statute seeks to protect children “from the factors that negatively affect their physical, intellectual, mental, spiritual, and moral development.” Proponents of the U.S. statutes have offered similar justification. And, like Russian President Vladimir Putin this month, the U.S. laws warn gay people and sympathizers to “leave kids alone, please.”

The underlying ideology of these statutes is the same: Everybody should be heterosexual, and homosexuality is per se bad. This ideology has never rested on any kind of evidence that homosexuality is a bad “choice” that the state ought to discourage. The ideology is a prejudice-laden legacy of a fading era. (In fact, the strategy is daffy: Even if homosexuality were a bad lifestyle choice, state laws are not an effective way to head off such a choice.)

Putin has assured the International Olympic Committee that the law is merely symbolic. But in the United States, officially sanctioned anti-gay prejudice has contributed to classroom bullying and to the high level of suicides among gay teens.

The actor and playwright Harvey Fierstein has called on the United States to boycott the Sochi Games because Russia prohibits “propaganda of homosexuality.” But recall that in 2002 the United States proudly, and without comment, sent its Olympic athletes to a state — Utah — that prohibits the “advocacy of homosexuality.” Maybe Obama ought to send Olympic delegates Billie Jean King and Brian Boitano to Alabama and Texas.

We offer that suggestion somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but there is an important lesson here. Sometimes the moral failings of others can help us see moral failings in ourselves. It was revulsion toward Nazi Germany’s eugenics policy that, in part, caused U.S. legislatures and courts to renounce state sterilization programs. Opposition to South African apartheid and the Soviet Union’s totalitarian regime generated greater national pressure for the Eisenhower administration and the Warren court to renounce apartheid in the American South.

Putin’s inability to justify this law puts a spotlight on the inability of Utah, Texas, Arizona and other states to justify their gay-stigmatizing statutes. They should be repealed or challenged in court. Just as judges led the way against compulsory sterilization and racial-segregation laws, so they should subject anti-gay laws to critical scrutiny.

As things stand, one could imagine Putin responding to U.S. criticism by saying: “You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye.”
Do you agree or disagree? Why?
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  #23    
Old February 5th, 2014 (01:33 PM).
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Quote originally posted by BlahISuck:
I think there might have been an undercurrent of homophobia throughout Russian society that even the Soviets couldn't root out. I'm nowhere near an expert on Russian society though.
The USSR didn't exactly try to raise awareness/support for gays. Homosexuality was illegal until the very end in late 90-91, the time by which Gorbachev's glasnost and perestroika policies had basically led to open revolution.
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Old February 5th, 2014 (02:32 PM).
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Quote originally posted by Alessi_sys:
American homophobia gone? Not by a long shot. It's alive and well and government supported, and I dare say, even funded. A number of politicians in the U.S. have even spoken up in support of the Russian law that prohibits "gay propaganda".
Certainly in many states you could argue that it's both funded and supported, yes. Some states are dramatically more progressive, though. One big obstacle in the United States is getting people to open up their religious beliefs. It may not ever be declared legal at the federal level, though it is currently recognized by the federal government it's from a country or state that recognizes same-sex marriage. In the United States, marriage equality is in the hands of the courts as well as the individual states. It's not considered an enumerated federal responsibility.
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Old February 5th, 2014 (03:27 PM).
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The federal government recognizes same-sex marriages. The hypocrisy is from the states themselves, and not the government, as the government is trying to force the acceptance on each state, one by one. Look at Utah and Oklahoma. Their bans were struck down just last month, and the states are fighting against a federal ruling, despite the fact that given the way our government works, they have no grounds to do so. The State must follow Federal rulings and laws, whether they like it or not.

Thus, there is no hypocrisy from the government, just from those kicking and screaming against the inevitable change that the States are doing. And last I checked, homosexuality is not illegal in any state, although there is still discrimination and marriage bans, unlike in Russia.
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