British, Canadian and US embassies fly Pride flag in Russia, where ‘gay propaganda’ is illegal

Pride flag at the US embassy in Russia

The UK, Canadiana and US embassies have flown the Pride flag in Russia, defying the country’s “gay propaganda” law.

On Friday (25 June), which marks 43 years since the rainbow flag was first used as a symbol of LGBT+ Pride at the 1978 Pride parade in San Francisco, the embassies of Canada, the UK and the US raised the flag in Russia.

Russia’s so-called “gay propaganda law” was signed by Vladimir Putin in 2013, after the start of this third presidential term, banning any “promotion” of “non-traditional sexual relationships”. Anyone found guilty under the law can be sentenced to heavy fines or up to 15 years in prison.

But the countries’ ambassadors each signed an open letter on the day, alongside the ambassadors of Iceland, New Zealand and Australia, “affirming the inherent human rights of each individual… including members of the LGBT+ community”.

The letter continued: “Unfortunately, LGBT+ individuals throughout the world continue to face violence, harassment and discrimination simply because of who they are, and law enforcement authorities often turn a blind eye to the hate speech and hate crimes that are still prevalent in many countries.

“This June, we celebrate Pride Month by applauding the accomplishments of LGBT+ activists and their allies… Human rights are universal and everyone, including LGBT+ persons, are entitled to their full enjoyment.”

The embassies in Moscow posted photos of their Pride flags to social media, with the US embassy in Russia spokesperson Jason Rebholz writing: “Today the US Embassy in Russia honours LGBT+ rights during the Pride Flag Day celebration. LGBT+ rights are human rights. Human rights are universal. Everyone deserves to live a life free from hatred, prejudice, and persecution.”

The British Embassy in Moscow added: “Today we raised the LGBT+ flag over the embassy.

“We support the rights and freedoms of the LGBT+ community and oppose any discrimination. Every person deserves to be treated with respect.”

Last year during Pride month, the foreign ministry in Russia made a formal complaint to the UK, US and Canadian embassies flying the rainbow LGBT+ Pride flag.

In 2020, the US embassy in Moscow was not only defying Putin, but also Donald Trump, who at the beginning of June banned US embassies from flying the rainbow flag for the entirety of Pride Month.

The ban only applied to official flagpoles, so the embassy in Moscow worked around it by hanging the flag on an exterior wall.