Two openly gay men are running for Parliament in a brazen challenge to Vladimir Putin and the ruling party, United Russia.
The two men, Aleksei Korolyov and Bulat Barantayev, are thought to be the very first LGBT people to stand in the Duma the lower house of the Federal Assembly.
Both of the men are outspoken LGBT activists, and naturally strongly object to the current gay “propaganda” law. The infamous law, which was passed in 2013, makes it illegal to equate gay and straight relationships, or promote gay rights in any way.
Aleksei and Bulat are running for the pro-Europe People’s Freedom Party (or Parnas), and Bulat has called for Putin to be impeached and the government cleansed of corruption.
As brazen as their challenge is, both men are aware of the extremely slim chances they stand of being elected. Yet they hope that by standing, they will provoke a discussion about LGBT rights.
Bulat spoke to Radio Free Europe, saying: “For a long time now, I have used all opportunities to cultivate an audience for accepting LGBT people. By my example, I show that gays in Russia can create their own successful businesses, can meet with people, can have children, and can even run for the State Duma.”
As for Aleksei, he had this to say: “The LGBT community now is in a desperate situation and we need allies. It is good that we have been able to form an alliance with Parnas. The LGBT community gets new resources to defend itself and the party should get some new voters.”
Apparently, he made the decision to run because United Russia had adopted an “extreme homophobic position”.
“The authorities are facilitating a homophobic discourse in society that is inciting hate crimes,” he said.
Fingers crossed that the pair find success, even if it is simply by provoking a more open discussion about the rights of LGBT people in Russia.