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#Putin #Homophobia Mr. Putin: To deny or prohibit the legal types of sexual behaviors, in all their variations is to deny the Soul itself. Homophobia is your problem on the personal level, and Russia’s problem on the State level. Both of you are very sick.…

#Putin #Homophobia
Mr. Putin: To deny or prohibit the legal types of sexual behaviors, in all their variations is to deny the Soul itself. Homophobia is your problem on the personal level, and Russia’s problem on the State level. Both of you are very sick.…


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In U.S. Military, Sexual Assault Against Men Is Vastly Underreported –


In U.S. Military, Sexual Assault Against Men Is Vastly Underreported

It was 2002, and Justin Rose was on a losing streak. The 20-year-old South Boston native had washed out of the University of Maine after just one semester, held a string of terrible jobs, and had just gone through a bad breakup with a girlfriend. He was hawking cellphones at the Emerald Square Mall in North Attleboro, Massachusetts, when a Marine walked into his store. Rose went into his standard pitch but lost the sale. The Marine Corps recruiter did not. Three weeks later, Rose shipped out to the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in Parris Island, South Carolina, for basic training.

The war in Afghanistan was about to enter its third year, and the war in Iraq was looming on the horizon. “I’ll see you in a couple years,” Rose told his parents. He’d be on active duty, a rifleman, and probably see service overseas. At least that’s what the recruiter told him. “It turned out, I was actually a communications guy in the Marine Corps Reserves,” Rose recalled. “So I came home 13 weeks later.”

A few years would pass before Rose shipped out for his first deployment, arriving in October 2005 at Camp Lemonnier in the sun-bleached nation of Djibouti in the Horn of Africa. His unit had been cobbled together from Marines based, like him, in Massachusetts. The rest hailed from California and Kansas. One of those Midwestern Marines was Jase Derek Stanton.

As part of the Third Provisional Security Company, Rose and his fellow Marines manned the guard towers and entry control points for the largest American outpost on the African continent. They had only been in-country for about a month when one of the Marine reservists from Kansas got drunk, vomited several times, and passed out on the ground outside his quarters. The next thing that Marine recalled, according to a summary in court documents, was waking up to find his pants pulled down and Stanton on top of him, touching his penis. The Marine shoved Stanton away and returned to his own quarters, but didn’t report the assault. A few weeks later, he would wake up to find Stanton assaulting him again. This time, he reported it. But that didn’t stop Stanton, who was acquitted at court martial. And neither did the Marines.

On New Year’s Eve 2005, Justin Rose headed to Camp Lemonnier’s cantina for celebratory $2.50 beers with his fellow Marines before heading back to his “hooch” around 1:30 a.m. Sometime after daybreak, Rose woke up to find someone stroking his penis. Disoriented for a moment, he lept down from his raised bunk and gave chase as a man dressed in red dashed out of his quarters and into another tent. He found Stanton, dressed in red, feigning sleep in his bed; Rose was certain Stanton was the attacker. So Rose did what he had been trained to do. He went to his team leader, a young corporal, and reported the assault. The first question he heard was: “Are you sure you’re not making this up?”

U.S. Marines with Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island stand at attention for morning colors before a sexual assault awareness and prevention 5k race held aboard Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., April 25, 2012. The Marines, sailors and civilians of Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island participated in a 5k race in observance of sexual assault awareness and prevention month.U.S. Marines stand at attention before a sexual assault awareness and prevention 5k race held aboard the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in Parris Island, S.C., on April 25, 2012.

Photo: U.S. Marines

Stigma and Shame

Serving in the U.S. armed forces is dangerous, especially for women. Despite being a minority, making up only 16.5 percent of the military, nearly 1 in 4 U.S. servicewomen reports being sexually assaulted — a rate far higher than that of men. Years of analysis of the issue, handwringing, and incremental reforms have failed to stem what has been called an “epidemic.”

But sexual assault of men in the military is also widespread and vastly underreported. Each day, on average, more than 45 men in the armed forces are sexually assaulted, according to the latest Pentagon estimates. For women, it is 53 per day, according to a September 2022 Pentagon report that uses a new euphemism “unwanted sexual contact” as a “proxy measure for sexual assault.” Nearly 40 percent of veterans who report to the Department of Veterans Affairs, or VA, that they have experienced military sexual trauma, or MST — sexual assault or sexual harassment — are men.

Men, civilian or military, are less likely to report sexual assault, to identify experiences they have had as abusive, and to seek formal treatment for such harms. A 2018 study of active-duty, reserve, and National Guard personnel noted an overall lack of awareness of sexual assault of men in the military, an inclination to blame or marginalize male victims, and substantial barriers to reporting sexual assault — including stigma, a lack of confidence in leadership, and feeling “trapped” by the physical confines of deployment. The 2022 Pentagon report found that about 90 percent of men in the military did not report a sexual assault they experienced in 2021; about 71 percent of women failed to report such an attack. “Underreporting of MST,” according to a 2019 study by researchers from the VA’s Rocky Mountain Mental Illness Research, Education, and Clinical Center in Colorado, “may derive from men’s concerns about stigma, shame, rape myths, lack of past empathic response to disclosures of MST, and the perceived implications of reporting MST for one’s masculinity and sexuality.” For these same reasons, they noted, male MST survivors are at “elevated risk for a vast array of adverse health outcomes.” The trauma of sexual assault can, for example, result in depression, anxiety, nightmares, flashbacks, post-traumatic stress disorder, anger management issues, self-blame, and low self-esteem, among other ill effects.

A decade ago, most veterans who submitted compensation claims for sexual assaults during their military service were denied benefits by the VA. In the years since, the VA has granted claims for military sexual trauma at an increasing rate. More than 103,000 veterans, of all genders, are now formally recognized by the VA as having been sexually traumatized during their service.

From 2011 to 2021, the total number of MST claims filed by men skyrocketed more than 119 percent, from 1,352 to 2,969, according to statistics provided to The Intercept by the VA. By the end of June, more than 2,550 male veterans had filed claims in 2022, almost double the number in 2011 and already 85 percent of last year’s total.

Over the last decade, the number of claims granted by the VA has grown from just 27.8 percent of all claims submitted for compensation by men in 2011 to 68.5 percent last year. Despite the precipitous growth, male claims have consistently been rejected at a higher rate than those of women, and the grant rate has lagged an average of 13 percent below that of women. The VA had no answer for the disparity, telling The Intercept via email that “it would be speculative to provide an explanation as to any difference in the grant rate.”

Triangle, Virginia -- Friday, November 18, 2022Justin Rose, a former Marine, holds a ‘challenge coin’ he received while deployed to Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti in 2005. During that deployment, Rose was sexually assaulted by another Marine.CREDIT: Alyssa Schukar for The InterceptJustin Rose holds a challenge coin he received while deployed to Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti in 2005.

Photo: Alyssa Schukar for The Intercept

Trust Betrayed

After being assaulted, Justin Rose was made to recount the details again and again, to his squad leader, his platoon sergeant, Jase Stanton’s squad leader, and a chaplain. The trust he placed in his noncommissioned officers to keep his story quiet was quickly betrayed as word spread across the camp. Rose was branded the Marine who had been groped and hadn’t done anything about it. He became the target of jokes and tried laughing along, but inside he was in agony and began questioning himself. Why hadn’t he done anything about it? Why hadn’t he kicked Stanton’s ass? He did the right thing, on paper at least, but it didn’t feel right. “A real Marine would have fought back,” he later wrote. He began to blame himself for his assault and his failure to react as others — and even he — expected. “My inaction that night crippled me, and I had no way to fix it,” he recalled.

Rose returned stateside, remained on active duty, and was promoted to corporal before being called to testify at Stanton’s court martial. But before the trial, he was contacted by Stanton’s military attorney who grilled him about his drinking at the cantina and how close a look he got of his fleeing assaulter. “When you’re in the Marines and an officer calls, you just answer the questions. In hindsight, now that I’ve been a company commander and have been involved with court martial hearings, I realize that was probably improper,” Rose told The Intercept.

“My inaction that night crippled me, and I had no way to fix it.”

The defense dissected his testimony, twisted it around, and used it to attack his credibility. Rose recalled that the defense counsel said his drinking of three beers at the cantina, hours earlier, had clouded his mind; that he had failed to get a clear look at the man who assaulted him; and that his failure to confront Stanton called into doubt whether the assault even occurred. Rose and four fellow Marines who provided evidence against Stanton were instead accused of colluding to ruin his career.

“The main consensus was that we were trying to conspire against Stanton for cultural and social differences,” Rose told The Intercept. “He was a Midwesterner from a religious background, and we were from the Northeast and not accustomed to his kind of Christian fundamentalism.” The military judge ruled in Stanton’s favor and he walked free.

The Intercept requested a copy of the court martial record from the Navy, the legal authority for the case, but no records were ever found. (The Office of the Judge Advocate General only maintains records of trials in which the accused was awarded a punitive discharge or at least one year of confinement.) The Intercept was able to confirm Stanton’s acquittal through legal records from a subsequent trial he was involved in. For additional details, The Intercept relied on interviews with Rose as well as court documents that included a 2018 appellate brief from the Kansas Court of Appeals and a judge’s memorandum opinion from that same year.

“By the time it was over,” Rose later wrote, “the Marine Corps had failed me three times: It had failed to take my claims seriously; then made my attacker out to be the victim and me the criminal; and finally failed to provide adequate support and resources in the aftermath of my assault — whether through access to sexual-assault counseling or something as simple as believing my story.”

Rose had had enough. He found that he couldn’t wear the same uniform as the man who had assaulted him and the many others who allowed Stanton to get away with it. “The military justice system said that I was a liar for something that I had no reason to lie about. If I was going to lie about anything, it certainly wouldn’t be that I was sexually assaulted and didn’t do anything about it,” he said. “It ended up being the reason that I left the Marine Corps. It shook my confidence in myself. It was a point of self-doubt. It was a point of shame.”

In 2007, the same year he left the Marines, Rose joined the Massachusetts National Guard. He would deploy to Afghanistan in 2011, where he saw combat and suffered a traumatic brain injury while serving as a Security Forces platoon leader for a Provincial Reconstruction Team in Uruzgan Province.

Stanton served in the Marines for several more years before leaving the corps and getting involved in Kansas politics. He worked as the campaign manager for Republican congressional candidate John Rysavy and as a field coordinator for the Republican senatorial campaign of Todd Tiahrt, a 16-year member of the U.S. House of Representatives. In 2010, Rysavy lost his primary, capturing just 2 percent of the Republican vote. In 2014, Tiahrt lost in the Republican primary, failing in a bid to reclaim his House seat from Mike Pompeo, who was later become U.S. Secretary of State.

Politics was not, however, Stanton’s only pursuit.

String of Assaults

Over the next decade, Stanton would be implicated in a string of sexual assaults. In 2007, after he had been acquitted at court martial, Stanton’s reserve unit — based out of Kansas City, Missouri — took part in one of its monthly weekend trainings. One night, according to court records obtained by The Intercept, he and other Marines went out drinking and after the bar closed, headed back to their base to sleep. Stanton attempted, multiple times, to grope two of the men. One of them, after repeatedly telling Stanton to stop, threatened to hurt him and later reported the incident, according to court documents.

In Johnson County, Kansas, in July 2008, Stanton attended a farewell party for a member of the military being deployed to the Middle East. One party-goer drank heavily and passed out, after which Stanton laid him out on a couch, pulled off his pants, and performed oral sex on him, according to the court records obtained by The Intercept. After a friend of the victim contacted the police, Stanton was charged with aggravated sodomy and aggravated sexual battery and resigned from Tiahrt’s campaign.

During the investigation, the Johnson County prosecutor contacted Rose and interviewed him about his assault by Stanton, though Rose was never called to testify. In the end, Stanton was convicted but served no prison time. Instead, he was given probation and required to register as a sex offender — but failed to properly do so.

While Rose and others had information about Stanton’s past that they shared with civilian authorities, the civilian world had no formal record of Stanton’s military legal proceedings. As the deputy attorney of nearby Riley County, Kansas, Bethany Fields prosecutes major crimes like murder, rape, and other forms of sexual assault, but she had no documentation on Stanton. “The military court martial proceeding didn’t follow him into civilian life, so there was no way for local law enforcement to know about it,” she told The Intercept. She also failed to find any records of Stanton’s court martial for the assaults at Camp Lemonnier.

Stanton’s probation meant that he was facing prison time if he was convicted again, but after failing to provide full information when registering as a sex offender, he disappeared from the radar of the criminal justice system until resurfacing a few years later in Fields’s Riley County.

“The military court martial proceeding didn’t follow him into civilian life, so there was no way for local law enforcement to know about it.”

On June 7, 2015, two soldiers, one 19 years old and the other 22, from the Army post at Fort Riley, were drinking at Tubby’s, a sports bar in Manhattan, Kansas, where they met Stanton. At closing time, the men went back to Stanton’s home where he poured shots and fixed them mixed drinks. The teenager passed out and woke to find Stanton “was sitting on top of him and was sodomizing him,” according to court documents. He scrambled to his feet and fled to the bathroom. When he emerged, he saw his friend passed out with his pants and underwear pulled down to his knees. The 19-year-old soldier pulled his friend’s pants up and attempted to contact his superiors and then family members, but couldn’t reach either. He then called the Army’s Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention hotline and arranged to meet with a SHARP representative at a nearby Starbucks. The teenage soldier was unable to wake his friend and left him at Stanton’s home. Both victims went to the hospital separately and received sexual assault examinations that revealed “a foreign DNA profile that matched Stanton.”

Stanton later texted a friend that he had a “three-way while that moron Boston kid [the 22-year-old] was asleep in the living room.” At trial, Stanton explained that he meant that he, according to summary documents, “messed around” with a friend and the teenage soldier, even though he had initially told a police detective that he had not had sexual intercourse with the teen. Arrested on June 9, 2015, Stanton was charged in Riley County with aggravated criminal sodomy.

A decade after being assaulted by Stanton at Camp Lemonnier, a decade after being doubted by the Marine Corps and accused of lying at court martial, a decade after Stanton had walked free, a detective from Kansas — where testimony about prior acts of sexual misconduct is admissible in court — called Rose to say that he was building a case against Stanton.

At trial, Stanton testified that he and the teenager had engaged in consensual oral and anal sex. The teenager countered that he had been unconscious. “At no point did I knowingly or intentionally hurt anyone,” Stanton maintained.

The 22-year-old victim did not appear at the trial — but Rose did. Then an Army captain with a wife and 2-year-old child, he flew to Kansas to tell his story once more. It was his 34th birthday.

This time, Rose’s testimony along with the victims of the 2005, 2007, 2008, and 2015 assaults was enough to sway the judge, who noted a distinct pattern. “They involved alcohol, they involved partying, usually asleep or perhaps passed out. … Most of them were in the military,” observed Judge Meryl D. Wilson.

“It’s very troubling — this is not the first time you had taken advantage of someone,” said Wilson. “The sad things about these situations is it doesn’t just impact you.” Wilson found Stanton was guilty of one count of aggravated criminal sodomy for his assault of the teenage soldier and sentenced him to 49 years in prison. He was also sentenced to 18 years (to be served concurrently) for failing to properly register as a sex offender in Kansas.

The National Museum of the Marine Corps in Triangle, Va., on Nov. 18, 2022.

Photo: Alyssa Schukar for The Intercept

Pentagon Dysfunction

Last July, an investigation by The Intercept found that sexual assault of U.S. military personnel in Africa was far more common and widespread than the Pentagon reported to Congress.

The Pentagon’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office compiles annual reports that claim to include all allegations of sexual assault involving U.S. military personnel. Between 2010 and 2020, the Pentagon listed just 73 cases of sexual assault in the U.S. Africa Command, or AFRICOM, area of operations. Yet criminal investigation files, obtained by The Intercept via the Freedom of Information Act, show that military criminal investigators logged at least 158 allegations of sexual offenses in Africa during that same period.

The case files revealed that these charges of sexual misconduct involving U.S. military personnel occurred in at least 22 countries in Africa, including 13 nations that do not appear in the annual Department of Defense reports. Some of the allegations accuse members of the military, while others recount attacks on U.S. personnel by civilians on or near U.S. outposts. For 2006, the year that Justin Rose reported his assault by Jase Stanton, the Defense Department’s official annual report doesn’t even offer a breakdown of such attacks by country.

A March 2020 report by a military advisory committee lamented the “difficulty in obtaining, uniform, accurate, and complete information on sexual offense cases across the military.” Last November, The American Prospect reported that Pentagon officials were long aware that the military’s system for reporting sexual assaults was dysfunctional, leading to underestimates of the scale of the problem. This may help explain the wide discrepancy between the Pentagon’s annual figures and the AFRICOM files obtained by The Intercept. Earlier this year, in a letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Reps. Katie Porter, D-Calif., and Jackie Speier, D-Calif., took the Pentagon to task for its failures in tracking sexual assault. “Poor data management makes it difficult for DoD leadership to understand the scope of the problem or respond effectively,” they wrote.

The Pentagon notes that survivors of sexual assault are often reluctant to come forward for a variety of reasons, including a desire to move on, maintain privacy, and avoid feelings of shame. Yet troops say that even when they do speak out, they often face a military culture and command structure that doesn’t take their allegations seriously and a military justice system that provides little accountability. Just 225 of 5,640 eligible cases went to court martial and only 50 of those resulted in convictions for nonconsensual sexual offenses, according to 2020 statistics. That conviction rate represents 0.88 percent of the cases.

This year, President Joe Biden signed an executive order making sexual harassment, for the first time, a crime under U.S. military law.

The effects of poor accountability and shame surrounding sexual assault while on active duty can continue far beyond one’s period of military service. “Despite successes in ensuring access to care for men who experienced MST, ongoing stigma related to experiencing sexual trauma in men also may be a barrier to seeking care,” Randal Noller, a VA spokesperson, told The Intercept. “We are looking at every avenue to help address this concern and inform men who experienced MST that VA believes them, that they are not alone, and we are here to help.”

Last year, in the face of increasing congressional pressure, Austin recommended that decisions to prosecute cases of sexual assault be taken out of the chain of command. In December 2021, Congress passed significant military justice reform that did so, which may prevent retaliation and lead more survivors to report sexual offenses. This year, President Joe Biden also signed an executive order making sexual harassment, for the first time, a crime under U.S. military law.

Triangle, Virginia -- Friday, November 18, 2022Justin Rose, a former Marine, poses for a portrait outside of the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Triangle, Virginia. While deployed to Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti in 2005, Rose was sexually assaulted by another Marine.CREDIT: Alyssa Schukar for The InterceptJustin Rose stands outside of the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Triangle, Va., on Nov. 18, 2022.

Photo: Alyssa Schukar for The Intercept

“Changes Will Happen”

Today, Jase Stanton is incarcerated at the El Dorado Correctional Facility in Kansas. Barring parole board intervention or credit for “good time,” his earliest release date is January 1, 2059 — 53 years to the day that he assaulted Justin Rose.

Stanton did not reply to text messages sent via an app that allows communications with inmates or to a letter sent to him by The Intercept.

“In the years since then, I came to realize that it wasn’t the assault that had the most enduring effect on me,” Rose said. “It was people’s refusal to believe that one man would assault another man. It was the mockery from leaders that I had trusted and the implication that, if it had happened, I must have done something to invite it.”

Rose, now a major in the Army Reserve, still grapples with feelings that, somehow, he remains at fault. “There is guilt on my behalf. I didn’t present a convincing enough case,” he said of his testimony at Stanton’s 2006 court martial. “And these two soldiers down at Fort Riley paid for it. What he did to them was substantially worse than what he did to me, and that’s a shitty feeling — that I didn’t do anything to help them.”

But Bethany Fields, the Riley County prosecutor, credits Rose’s willingness to testify in 2015 as having a major influence on Stanton’s conviction and lengthy prison sentence. “The case got delayed a couple times, so we had to call and tell the earlier victims that the dates had changed, but Justin stuck with me. That was huge,” she said. “In this case, the issue was consent. We had DNA, so there was no question that the act happened. The issue was whether or not the victim consented. Because we had Justin and others come in and say, ‘This happened to me and I didn’t consent,’ ‘I saw him do this and that person didn’t consent’; because we had all these other people who said they had been sleeping or drinking or passed out and didn’t consent, it made for a much stronger case.”

Fields believes that testifying about these traumas will help to hasten change. “The more the word gets out about this type of assault, the more that people are willing to talk about this, the more people speak out,” she said, “the more changes will happen and the less victims we will have in the future.”

Rose said that he’s seen a shift in military culture since his assault at Camp Lemonnier — and that it’s been driven by survivors.

“There was a perception, as a male sexual assault victim, that you wanted it. And if you didn’t, you could have fought back harder. And that creates a culture of silence,” he said. “Today, you see a lot more people being open about their stories. People are willing to come forward. They’re not ashamed of what has happened to them. And because of that, things are changing.”

The post In U.S. Military, Sexual Assault Against Men Is Vastly Underreported appeared first on The Intercept.

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What To Know About Russia’s So-Called ‘Gay Propaganda’ Bill

On Thursday, Russian lawmakers unanimously approved a bill that bans all forms of what authorities deem as LGBTQ “propaganda” across media, cinema, books, and advertisements. The bill also prohibits Russians from promoting or “praising” homosexual relationships or publicly suggesting that they are “normal.”

Human rights groups warn that if the bill is signed by President Vladimir Putin and comes into force—which they say it is all but guaranteed to—it will mark another instance of persecution faced by the LGBTQ community in Russia amid a major backslide in recent years.

Below, the latest on what Russia’s parliament voted on and what comes next.
[time-brightcove not-tgx=”true”]

What does the “gay propaganda” bill say?

The new “gay propaganda” bill expands on existing legislation that was adopted by the Kremlin in 2013 to promote “traditional” family values in Russia. The 2013 law prohibited depictions of homosexuality, same-sex unions, and “non-traditional sexual relations” to be shown to minors. The new bill would extend those restrictions to all ages.

The bill also bans what authorities describe as the “propaganda of pedophilia and sex change.” While the concept of propaganda is loosely defined under the bill, it strictly prohibits the use of any medium to spread any related information.

“Essentially, it’s a total ban of being LGBT+ in Russia,” said Dilya Gafurova, the head of Sphere Foundation, a Russian LGBT+ organization based in St. Petersburg.

When is the new law expected to go into effect?

On Thursday, the State Duma, or lower house of parliament, approved the bill in its third and final reading. Now, the bill will need to get approval at the Federation Council, or the upper house of parliament. From there, it will go to Putin, whose signature will give it legal force.

Gafurova, the Russian LGBT advocate, expects Putin to sign it into legislation as early as December this year or January 2023, describing the process so far as “rushed.” “In Russia, this usually means that the legislature’s as good as adopted at this stage,” she says, because of the law’s passage in the Duma on Thursday.

Read More: Russian Activists Just Won an Important Battle Over LGBTQ Rights. But the War Is Far From Over

What consequences will the Russian LGBTQ community face?

Vyacheslav Volodin, the speaker of the Duma, said on social media that “any propaganda of non-traditional relationships will have consequences.”

While the bill does not make violations a criminal offense, they will be punishable by fines ranging from 100,000 to 2 million rubles ($1,660-$33,000). Non-residents who commit certain violations can also face expulsion from Russia after 15 days of detention.

Gafurova says that although the previous law was rarely used against individuals—and mostly enforced against websites or individual protestors from speaking up—now, it will allow authorities to go on a “witch hunt.” It will also have other far-reaching implications, she adds: “It has complicated our lives because the wording is so vague that it can be used in an arbitrary fashion.”

Some lawmakers have also shown support for an independent bill that would make any so-called “gay propaganda” a criminal offense, according to the Associated Press.

Where do LGBTQ rights stand in Russia?

Russia decriminalized homosexuality in 1993, but homophobia and discrimination is still rife. The country today ranks 46 out of 49 for LGBTQ inclusion in European countries by the watchdog, ILGA-Europe.

In 2020, Russia explicitly outlawed same-sex marriages in the country’s constitution by adopting amendments stipulating that the institution of marriage is “a union between a man and a woman.”

Putin, who aligns closely with the Orthodox Church, has publicly rejected same-sex relationships. In speeches given at the Kremlin, he has also railed against same-sex marriages and parenthood by these couples. “Do we really want here, in our country, in Russia, instead of ‘mum’ and ‘dad,’ to have ‘parent number one,’ ‘parent number two,’ or ‘parent number three’?” he said in September. “Have they gone completely insane?”

LGBTQ advocates in Russia have reported many cases of hate and violence against the community. Pride events previously held in St. Petersburg and Moscow have been marked by state violence and arrests, while an increase in the number of attacks on LGBTQ people throughout Russia—both by individuals and by organized homophobic groups—increased after the 2013 law, according to a 2014 report published by Human Rights Watch.

Public sentiment also reflects low tolerance for LGBTQ recognition: in a global poll conducted by Ipsos in April and May of 2021, 52% of respondents in Russia were against same-sex marriage.

The Sphere Foundation’s Gafurova says she’s encountered widespread support for the newly-passed bill. “It’s very depressing for us, but it falls in line with traditional ideas of family values in Russia,” she says.

Read More: Russia’s Anti-Gay Laws: How a Dutch Activist Got Caught in the Crosshairs

How are human rights advocates responding to this law?

In 2017, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Russia’s “gay propaganda law” was discriminatory, promoted homophobia, and violated the European Convention on Human Rights and that it “served no legitimate public interest.” The court rejected suggestions that public debate on LGBTQ issues could influence children to become homosexual or that it threatened public morals.

Meanwhile, the Sphere Foundation says they will continue to appeal to Russian citizens and MPs to prevent the law from coming into effect through national and global petitions—so far, close to 120,000 people have signed the petitions online, including over 83,000 Russians. They group will also continue to provide support to the LGBTQ community virtually.

“We wanted to at least try to give people hope,” says Gafurova.

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Shooter at gay club showed ‘no hesitation’

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — Deanne VanScyoc said she dropped to the floor behind a pool table at Club Q and called 911 as the first shots rang out just before midnight, hitting people at the bar who had been drinking and chatting.

VanScyoc was facing the entrance from behind a glass wall when the shooter came in, she said. The shooter turned right and fired a single shot toward the bar, then three more in rapid succession, then a flurry of shots. As pop music pounded and a strobe light flashed, VanScyoc saw the shooter, in body armor, move in a crouch down a ramp, rifle at eye level, and head toward the dance floor.

“There was no hesitation,” VanScyoc told The Associated Press in an interview.

Patrons at the gay club that night were celebrating a drag queen’s birthday and the atmosphere had been festive. When the shooting started, much of the crowd already had left the dance floor and was gathered in an enclosed patio just off the dance floor.

Five people were killed and 17 wounded by gunfire in an attack that unfolded over just minutes, according to authorities.

As the shooter moved deeper into the club, VanScyoc heard another volley of shots. Shooter Anderson Aldrich, 22, sprayed bullets across the dance hall. Partygoers along the walls flipped over tables and ducked behind them, according to VanScyoc and a friend who was there, A.J. Bridgewater. The two recounted what happened during the shooting while standing beside the growing memorial of flowers outside the club on Tuesday night.

VanScyoc didn’t see the victims get shot, she said, “but I heard screams.”

Another patron, James Slaugh, said he had been getting ready to leave for the night when, “all of a sudden we just hear, ‘pop, pop, pop.’ As I turn, I took a bullet in my arm from the back.”

Slaugh, who spoke to from his hospital bed, said he watched others around him fall, including his boyfriend, who was shot in the leg, and his sister, who survived with bullet wounds in 13 places. The scariest part of the shooting, he said, was not knowing whether the assailant would fire again.

As she saw the shooter move toward the patio — viewable from the dance hall through a glass door — VanScyoc took her chance and jumped up from behind the pool table to run for an exit.

Out on the patio, Bridgewater said he started to flee as the first volleys rang out, but panicked and tripped over a stool. He regained his footing and rushed with a group of about 20 people toward a closed garage door that led to a fenced-in area. “It was flight or die,” he said.

Neither VanScyoc nor Bridgewater saw Aldrich subdued, but believed it happened as the attacker moved toward the patio. Aldrich was pulled to the ground by two club patrons — Thomas James and Richard Fierro — and beaten.

To those who frequented Club Q, the violence also desecrated one of the few places the Colorado Springs LGBTQ community could fully embrace their authentic selves.

The motive for the attack is still being investigated. A judge ordered Aldrich to be held without bail during an initial court appearance Wednesday on preliminary charges of murder and hate crimes. Officials say Aldrich was armed with a semiautomatic rifle and at least one other gun was recovered at the scene.

Once VanScyoc had made it outside, she moved to the front entrance of the club, where she said James had collapsed with a bullet wound in his chest after helping subdue the suspect. She held pressure on the wound with one hand and spoke to police on her phone until paramedics arrived.

Meanwhile, Bridgewater and the crowd on the patio had opened the door open with some difficulty, scaled the fence, and ran toward a nearby Walgreens, pounding on the door to no response. The group moved next to a 7-Eleven, where they found another clubgoer, Barrett Hudson, laying face down with seven bullet wounds in his back as people on the scene tried to stop the bleeding.

In the early morning hours after the shooting, Bridgewater and others gathered in a friend’s apartment, watching the story unfold in the media. He kept trying to call Club Q bartender Derrick Rump, one of Bridgewater’s closest friends, then learned he was among those killed.

“We all lost it,” said Bridgewater.

The days since, he said, have been a blur of “silence, tears, a moment of laughter, chaos.”

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Michael Novakhov retweeted: Just friends #johnlock #sherlock #john

Michael Novakhov retweeted: Just friends #johnlock #sherlock #john


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Gay Palestinian Man Executed in ISIS-Style Beheading


While in some countries LGBTQ agendas are being shoved down everyone’s throat even at kindergarten level, in other societies people are going to the opposite extreme.

Ahmed was supposed to receive asylum in Canada in two months, but instead was brutally murdered. The violent “honor killing” took place in early October, but because of its horrific nature the Palestinian Authority censored this news item. It was a murder the likes of which we have not seen in many years.

Ahmed Abu Merahia was executed by a group of Palestinians in Hebron after being abducted from Tel Aviv, where he had been living for the past two years.

Twenty-five-year-old Ahmed had managed to get a residency permit in Israel about two years ago due to death threats he received in his hometown of Hebron, which is governed by the Palestinian Authority (PA). He fled from there and came to Israel. His plan was to get to Canada, and indeed luck seemed to smile on him at first. Canada expressed willingness to accept him as a refugee immigrant based on his personal story and the persecution against him in Hebron. In the meantime, he lived in Israel, found a job and made a decent living. But luck stopped playing in his favor when a group of Palestinians managed to abduct him and bring him back to the city of Hebron by force. The person who murdered Abu Marahia made sure to document the event by video and spread it on social media after the deceased was beheaded.

Even the official spokesman of the Palestinian police admitted that this is one of the most horrific crimes recorded recently, and that it sets a dangerous cultural precedent of beheading, which is liable to be repeated. The spokesman appealed to the young people not to disseminate the video.

Illustration. Zizo Abul Hawa is another gay Palestinian man who found asylum in Tel Aviv after receiving death threats from Palestinian family and friends. There are hundreds more like him. Photo by Nora Savosnick/Flash90

Arab nations have little tolerance for homosexuality. However, the attitude differs from country to country. In Gulf localities such as Dubai, the policy is “Don’t ask, don’t tell.” In other countries like Lebanon or Jordan there is more tolerance, and there are even special gay entertainment venues. Places like Egypt and the Palestinian Authority have no tolerance.

There is no direct reference in the Koran to the punishment or execution of homosexuals. But a significant number of Muslim scholars interpret homosexuality as a sin and a crime, and support the death penalty for homosexuals. Most of the extremist clerics rely on the Hadith, a collection of oral law traditions attributed to Mohammed. Many Hadiths (ahadith) discuss livat (sexual intercourse between males). Two examples are:

  1. “When a man mounts another man, the throne of God shakes.”
  2. “Kill the one that is doing it and also kill the one that it is being done to.” (apparently in reference to the active and passive partners in gay sexual intercourse)

Therefore homosexual activity can lead to death in Muslim societies. This is usually not at the hands of the authorities, except in Iran. As in the case of Ahmed, sometimes people in conservative Arab societies take the “law” into their own hands and execute judgement. We have seen many examples in the Palestinian Authority, in Egypt and elsewhere.

Hundreds of Palestinians have taken refuge in Israel after being threatened over homosexuality. Some of them use Israel as a waypoint while trying to obtain asylum in Western countries, like Ahmed. Some of these Palestinians choose to settle in the State of Israel, with a residence visa that is issued for purely humanitarian reasons.

In Palestinian society, gays are treated as religious infidels and also as dangerous criminals, who must be destroyed in order not to contaminate the traditional and religious society in which they live. In Arab society, a person’s honor and his family’s honor are of paramount importance. The gay person’s relatives are the ones who must “get rid” of the problem so that the social stigma does not stick to them. The only way to do this is to murder the homosexual. It is similar to murdering women for supposedly dishonoring the family (See: The Tragedy of Palestinian Honor Killing). It’s the same. The same shame, the same stigma and the same method used to erase the stigma.

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Legalizing Homophobia’: Russia’s LGBT Community Braces For New Wave Of State-Sanctioned Discrimination


“Our ability to simply go out onto the street will be threatened, as well as our safety,” said Anna Kosvintseva, a web designer in the southern Russian city of Astrakhan, when asked about legislation currently making its way through parliament that would virtually ban any mention of same-sex relationships or transgender issues. “After all, we can’t expect help from anywhere or anyone.”

Many activists and people in Russia’s LGBT community link the draconian legislation with the country’s grinding war of aggression against neighboring Ukraine and the government’s efforts to rally broad support by insisting the country’s “traditional values” are under assault by “Satanists” at home and abroad.

“The war is not going well,” said Vsevolod Galkin, a photographer and director who formerly worked for the LGBT magazine Kvir in Moscow. “So they are trying to turn the public discourse to some sort of scandal, some sort of divisions. This isn’t the first time this has happened. We see it every seven years or so.”

“The bill is complete nonsense that the government is throwing like a bone to conservative-minded citizens to distract them from military mobilization and economic problems,” said Dina Nurm, a feminist activist from Kazan, capital of the Tatarstan region. “It is a new tool for denunciations.”

‘The Morality Of A Country At War’

President Vladimir Putin signed a law banning the “propagandizing of nontraditional sexual relationships to minors” in 2013. In addition, many LGBT activists have been targeted in recent years under Russia’s so-called “foreign agent” laws. Since the 2013 law was adopted, Russia has seen a dramatic spike in homophobic vigilante violence.

The proposed new legislation, which was given preliminary approval on October 27 by the State Duma – the lower house of Russia’s legislature – is expected to pass through parliament by the end of this month. It would radically expand the ban on “propaganda” of homosexual and transgender relations to all audiences. It would ban spreading information “that might foster in minors the desire to change their gender.” It would ban advertisements, films, books, art, and other materials hat “propagandize nontraditional sexual relations or desires.” Fines for violations would be significantly increased up to 400,000 rubles ($6,700).

“We have traditions, conscience, and an understanding of how we must think about children, families, the country, and how to preserve what was handed down to us by our parents,” said Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin just before the initial vote on the new law. He added that even more restrictions might be introduced to the bill before its second reading.

Everything besides “normal life,” Volodin added, “is sin, sodomy, and darkness, and our country will fight against it.”

Everything besides “normal life is sin, sodomy, and darkness, and our country will fight against it.”

The representative of the Russian Orthodox Church at the session said: “The morality of a country at war is a matter of our future victory. We have our own path of development, and we don’t need Europe’s nontraditional relations.”

On November 9, Putin signed a document titled The Foundations Of State Policy To Preserve And Strengthen Russian Traditional Spiritual And Moral Values. The text says: “This is a strategic planning document in the sphere of the national security of the Russian Federation.

“The Russian Federation considers its traditional values to be the foundation of Russian society, enabling it to defend and strengthen Russia’s sovereignty,” it reads.

‘I Will Continue Speaking Out’

Yelena, 35, lives with her wife — they were married three years ago in Portugal — in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk and volunteers at an organization that provides assistance to LGBT people. Like many of the people interviewed for this article, she asked that her identity be concealed out of safety concerns. She says the government is intentionally fostering homophobia.

“Most Russians aren’t homophobes…but in recent years at the political level they have whipped up such a hysteria around ‘other’ people that it is really getting scary,” Yelena said. “At any moment, a witch hunt could begin, and no one is going to defend you. So people are already living as unnoticeably as possible.”

“The bill is...a new tool for denunciations,” says Dina Nurm, a feminist activist from Kazan, capital of the Tatarstan region.


“The bill is…a new tool for denunciations,” says Dina Nurm, a feminist activist from Kazan, capital of the Tatarstan region.

Mikhail is an activist in the Volga River city of Samara who volunteers at several civic organizations providing assistance to LGBT people. He agrees that even in rural areas, many Russians are tolerant of gays as neighbors and members of their community.

“But the new law is aimed at preventing gays and lesbians from living openly and showing that they don’t pose any danger,” Mikhail said. “As a result, heterosexuals will interact less with gays or won’t know about their orientation. Over time, even for those who might be open to being tolerant, the LGBT community will be transformed into an enemy.”

Alla Chikinda, an LGBT activist in the Urals region city of Yekaterinburg, offered a similar take.

“Those who have been living more or less openly will shut themselves off, and those who have not yet come out, won’t,” she said. “People who support the LGBT community and donate to organizations or participate in joint projects, or simply openly proclaim their support, will stop doing so. This is the main danger of the law.”

‘I Have No Idea How To Continue’

Yulia Alyoshina, a woman in Siberia’s Altai region who was Russia’s first openly transgender politician, was barred from the ballot in a 2021 city council election in the regional capital, Barnaul. The day after the Duma backed the new bill in the first of three required votes, she announced her withdrawal from politics.

“I have no idea how to continue conducting public political activities as an openly transgender woman,” she said, adding that the LGBT community could expect “even more serious hostility” if the “discriminatory” new law is adopted.

Activist Aleksei Sergeyev at a rally against homophobia in St. Petersburg: “There have been many television talk shows and films equating gays and pedophiles.”


Activist Aleksei Sergeyev at a rally against homophobia in St. Petersburg: “There have been many television talk shows and films equating gays and pedophiles.”

LGBT citizens say they already see increased hostility on the Internet and in real life. Aleksei Sergeyev, an LGBT activist in St. Petersburg, said that after one local LGBT organization was prevented from holding its meetings in a community center, it resorted to meeting in a public park.

Aleksandra of Krasnodar


Aleksandra of Krasnodar

“They were attacked by young nationalists and one of them got a head injury,” Sergeyev said. “There have been many television talk shows and films equating gays and pedophiles.”

Aleksandra, a 20-year-old lesbian in the southern city of Krasnodar, said the new law will “legalize homophobia.”

“Queer people have become enemies and criminals in their own country,” she said. “But I will continue speaking out against homophobia. and I won’t conceal my orientation. I am who I am.”

Based on reporting by RFE/RL’s Idel.Realities, Siberia.Realities, and North.Realities
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Wall St ends lower after recent strong gains, Alphabet shares sink


Traders work on the trading floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York City, U.S., January 27, 2023. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

U.S. stocks ended down on Wednesday, paring most of the strong gains of the previous session, with tech-focused shares leading the way lower.

The biggest drag on the S&P 500 and Nasdaq was Alphabet (GOOGL.O), whose shares dropped after its new AI chatbot Bard delivered an incorrect answer in an online advertisement.

Adding to the downbeat mood in stocks, Federal Reserve officials on Wednesday said more interest rate rises are in the cards as the U.S. central bank moves ahead with efforts to control inflation.

Fed Governor Christopher Waller said inflation seems poised to continue slowing this year but the U.S. central bank’s battle to reach its 2% target “might be a long fight” with monetary policy kept tighter for longer than anticipated.

Stocks rallied on Tuesday following Fed Chair Jerome Powell’s session before the Economic Club of Washington, where he said interest rates might need to move higher than expected if the U.S. economy remained strong, but said he felt a process of “disinflation” is under way.

“After this kind of run and a move to a valuation certainly in the richer camp, you need to have more evidence to keep the market climbing higher,” said Quincy Krosby, chief global strategist at LPL Financial in Charlotte, North Carolina.

The Nasdaq remains up about 14% for the year to date.

According to preliminary data, the S&P 500 (.SPX) lost 45.50 points, or 1.11%, to end at 4,117.91 points, while the Nasdaq Composite (.IXIC) lost 201.60 points, or 1.66%, to 11,912.19. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (.DJI) fell 202.51 points, or 0.59%, to 33,954.18.

Investors have been concerned about how aggressive the Fed’s actions may be this year following Friday’s surprisingly strong U.S. jobs report.

They have also been concerned about mixed reports from U.S. companies this earnings season. With results in from more than half of the S&P 500 companies, earnings still are expected to have declined year-over-year in the fourth quarter of 2022, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

Shares of entertainment company Walt Disney (DIS.N) were little changed ahead of its quarterly results due after the closing bell.

Investors also were digesting comments from President Joe Biden late Tuesday at the State of the Union address, supporting calls to tax corporate share buybacks.

CVS Health Corp (CVS.N) were up after its $9.5 billion cash buyout offer for Oak Street Health Inc (OSH.N). Oak Street Health shares also rose.