When Russian President Vladimir Putin signed into Russian legislation a law that criminalized all conduct supporting, encouraging or positively portraying the LGBT orientation in June 2013, it sparked an international outcry that has been growing in intensity, especially leading into the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. This broad law specifically bans “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations,” making it illegal to distribute information on gay rights or even suggest that homosexual relationships are equal to their heterosexual counterparts. The law was originally conceived and enacted to protect the well-being of minors, but it has been enforced through countless brutal civil rights violations that have outraged human rights activists and world leaders alike.
Undeniably, 2013 was a landmark year for LGBT rights in the United States, yet as we celebrate the many victories at home for LGBT citizens, other countries are not faring as well. And as the world comes together on the Olympic stage, all eyes are on Russia, which is currently undergoing a homophobic renaissance under President Vladimir Putin’s ban on “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations.”
Will 2014 be the year when opponents of progress will finally stand alone on the wrong side of history? The forecast looks cloudy, at best. But as I look back at 2013—the battles we’ve won and the battles we’ve lost—I see tremendous potential for advances in LGBT equality in the New Year.
It is always difficult to quantify progress in struggles for increased basic human rights. Looking at 2013 cumulatively, though, there is no doubt that the United States is picking up momentum and moving toward LGBT equality faster than ever.