World opinion may not have swayed the Russians to end their discrimination against their gay citizens, but it appears it has had an effect in Armenia. Yesterday the national police withdrew the bill they had submitted that would have banned any public endorsement of “non-traditional sexual relationships”.
Police claim they drafted the amendment to Armenia’s Code of Administration Offenses in response to letters of concern from citizens objecting to any public display of homosexuality. They claim they never planned to crack down on gay Armenians, pointing out the change that they requested would simply fine those who publicly support homosexuality, including mentions on TV. (And not a small fine, either, up to $4000 for each instance.)
According to an Armenian news site, Chief of Police Vladimir Gasparian insists the bill was not withdrawn because of outside pressure. He claims it is just not a priority for police at this time. Human Rights Groups, including Pink Armenia, think otherwise, convinced the world reaction to Russia’s similar law is what caused the police chief to have a change of heart – or maybe just cold feet.
Withdrawal of this bill is a major relief for the beleaguered Armenian gay community. Homosexuality was decriminalized in Armenia in the 1990s, but very few protections exist for LGBT citizens, and hostility against gays is rampant. Now, the challenge will be to keep the police from reintroducing the bill when the Olympics are over and the world’s attention moves elsewhere.
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