Russian Court Labels Another LGBT Organization as a “Foreign Agent”
A Russian court recently labeled Maximum, a regional LGBT organization in Murmansk, as a “foreign agent.” Under the law, “foreign agents” are organizations engaged in “political activity” while receiving foreign funds. The brand is often used to punish organizations that run afoul of political elites or engage in controversial work. The court effectively punished Maximum twice by attributing the organization’s activities to its chief office as well.
Maximum provides legal and psychological support for LGBT victims of bias-motivated violence and discrimination. It maintains that providing services should not be considered political activity, and therefore it shouldn’t be subject to such an ostracizing label. The term, typically associated with foreign spies, carries a debilitating stigma rooted in Cold War terminology.
Russian Law No. 121-FZ, passed in the summer of 2012, mandates that “foreign agent” organizations must register with the Ministry of Justice or face restrictive fines or criminal charges. Between the steep operational costs of complying with the law and heightening animosity between Russia and the West, many organizations have considered shutting down rather than accepting the label of a foreign agent seeking to undermine the Russian government.
The court’s action came shortly before Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev. Kyrgyzstan currently has legislation pending that would ban all positive statements about LGBT identities. It’s modeled on the Russian anti-propaganda law. Russia continues to export its toxic brand of homophobia in its ongoing bid for regional influence.