California Legislators Are Seeking Sanctions Against Russia, Citing Anti-Gay Laws

Legislators in California are taking action to combat new Russian laws that are seen as a violation of LGBT rights. State Senator Mark Leno (D) said Monday he will introduce a resolution urging California's public retirement systems not to invest future resources in Russia in protest of the country's anti-gay laws.

State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D) and Senator Ricardo Lara (D) are also pushing for the resolution to be passed. The resolution is a response to new laws in Russia that ban gay adoptions, as well as "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations" like gay pride events.

“What’s happening in Russia is an outrageous violation of basic human rights, and history has taught us time and time again what can happen when we remain silent in the face of such persecution,” Steinberg said.

In addition to calling for a change in the investment policy of the California Public Employee Retirement System and the California State Teachers Retirement System (which together have billions of dollars in assets), the measure asks the International Olympic Committee to seek a written guarantee from the Putin administration that visitors at the 2014 Winter Olympics will not be prosecuted under the laws.

The International Olympic Committee, who recently stated it could punish athletes who speak out against the new laws, might not be particularly receptive.

"The anti-gay laws recently passed in Russia are an unconscionable affront to LGBT people across the world, not just those who live in that country,” Leno said. “Californians cannot silently sit back and tacitly condone these practices by continuing to invest in and support Russian enterprises.”

The laws are a bit confusing, mostly thanks to an unclear definition of "propaganda." Apparently, anyone who distributes information with the intent of persuading minors that nontraditional sexual relations (another vague term) are "attractive" or — here's an insane notion — "socially equivalent to traditional relationships" could be prosecuted for breaking the law and face steep fines.

President Obama has said he doesn't think it is appropriate to boycott the Olympics. "Nobody’s more offended than me by some of the anti-gay and lesbian legislation that you’ve been seeing in Russia," he said. "And one of the things I’m really looking forward to is maybe some gay and lesbian athletes bringing home the gold or silver or bronze, which I think would go a long way in rejecting the kind of attitudes that we’re seeing there."

Meanwhile in London, hundreds gathered Sunday to protest the restrictive laws, carrying rainbow flags and banners with slogans like "Love Russia. Hate Homophobia." Prime Minister David Cameron tweeted, "I share your deep concern about the abuse of gay people in Russia." At least California is in good company.