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Monday, 12 August 2013 00:00

No excusing anti-gay law

Russia's law banning so-called propaganda in favour of homosexuality is a repressive measure that cannot be justified.

It is similar to Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988 passed by Margaret Thatcher's Tory government to prevent teachers from telling pupils of different forms of sexuality.

Section 28 remained on the statute book until repeal by the Scottish Parliament in 2000 and, three years later, by Westminster.

It was one of the pieces of legislation that defined the Tories as the "nasty" party, highlighting a non-existent propaganda problem in order to signify to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people that they were, at best, second-class citizens.

It also served as a dog whistle within the Tory Party to indicate to members that those supporting such discrimination were reliable Thatcherites in contrast to less trustworthy "liberal" elements.

David Cameron epitomised these right-wing intransigents even after his election to Parliament in 2003, opposing the Labour government's repeal plan, having previously attacked Tony Blair for being "anti-family."

This is the same Cameron praised by Stephen Fry for having shown "a determined, passionate and clearly honest commitment to LGBT rights and helped push gay marriage through both houses of our Parliament in the teeth of vehement opposition from so many of your own side."

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The Prime Minister was right to confront the bigots on his own benches - the very elements he had previously courted and disowned only in 2009 when he was campaigning for the Tory Party leadership.

However, this reveals a decision based more on perceived political advantage than a "determined, passionate and clearly honest commitment to LGBT rights."

Had Cameron thought that he would gain from backing Fry's call to support a transfer of the Winter Olympic Games from Sochi to "Utah, Lillehammer, anywhere you like" or to back a British boycott in the event of IOC refusal, he would have done so.

In declining to back Fry, the Prime Minister recognised that there was nothing in it for him.

More importantly, a transfer or boycott would not benefit LGBT communities in Russia, which is why there has been no demand from within the country to isolate the Putin regime through this measure.

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The Morning Star and most of Britain's progressive movement backed wholeheartedly the international isolation of apartheid South Africa and support tomorrow's boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign against apartheid Israel.

Does this indicate hypocrisy or a downplaying of the importance of discrimination against LGBT people?

Absolutely not. International solidarity implies support for demands made by representatives of repressed nations or sections of them.

Fry's usually reliable political antenna has let him down in this instance by equating, for instance, Putin's Russia with nazi Germany, which is absurd.

The Russian president derives much of his domestic support from portraying himself as a defender of Russian national interests after the collective humiliation of the Yeltsin years when the old drunk danced to Yankee Doodle Dandy and allowed the country's resources to be plundered by transnational corporations and local oligarchs.

Putin would relish justifying Russia's right to stage the Winter Olympics, especially since there was no offensive against Britain's award of the Summer Olympics despite its mass slaughter in Iraq and elsewhere.

Russia's LGBT communities would gain more from closer links with overseas groups in and heightened publicity about discrimination rather than boycott proposals that imply a Western moral superiority.

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