26/07/2013 07:56 BST | Updated 24/09/2013 06:12 BST

Ranting Against Russia


If I was a woman I would marry Rachel Maddow.

Maddow is one of the most intelligent commentators on US television.

As the US Supreme Court was recently deliberating some aspect of marriage equality (which I have to admit that I never really quite understood but it seemed to excite the US gays no end), Maddow had the predictable 'for' and 'against' marriage advocates on her program.

At one point, the 'anti-equality' advocate was making a long-winded point about how it's important for children to be brought up in families where it is a man and a woman who are the parents, and that this traditional concept of marriage should be upheld 'for the children'. Maddow interjected and shut him down:

'All of these laws that you're making or seeking to uphold, they don't make any less of "us", they just institutionalize discrimination.'

As an out and proud lesbian, Maddow's logic is fairly compelling and irrefutable. Irrefutable because of the scientific research that has helped us understand a bit more about human sexuality.

Dr Qazi Rahman, who specializes in the study of human sexuality and manages to explain things plainly and simply, summarizes the research as:

'We don't know everything about why our biology creates gay men and lesbians, but we do know that it's not a choice, that throughout history a minority percentage of our population will genetically be gay or lesbian.'

What Maddow articulates so succinctly is that law makers (and advocates for maintaining legislation that uses sexuality as a basis for different treatment of people) need to be transparent about the decisions they are making. Having a law that says that marriage is only open to relationships between men and women discriminates against gays and lesbians who are wanting to formalize same sex relationships. It won't in any way lead to there being less gays or lesbians in the world, it just institutionalizes a conscious decision to treat differently or discriminate against a minority of the population.

Living in the UK, it's easy to think that much of the struggle for recognition of the reality of human sexuality, and a general acceptance that there is no basis for discriminating against gay men and lesbians, has been safely achieved. Legislative and social change has been quickly building momentum and there is a palpable sense of relief across the UK's LGBT community that "we've done it", "we've got there", "finally we can stop fighting for acceptance".

During the Weimar Republic years in Germany (1919-1933), Berlin was an open and accepting society where diversity of lifestyle, thought, and sexuality was allowed to flourish and was celebrated. A few years later gay men were being branded with pink triangles and transported to concentration camps where many of them died.

Which brings me to Russia. The history of Russia is fascinating - the wealth and extravagance of the Tsars, through revolution, cold war, and violent political and social upheavals. It makes me wonder what is going on in a country, in a community, that it has to start looking for scapegoats. New laws banning 'gay propaganda' and the recent arrest of a Dutch television crew (who were asking people on their views about LGBT people), are clear signs of a leadership and of a community looking for excuses or distractions from deeper problems that they're not ready to face up to.

In the words of Rachel Maddow, these laws that you're making won't mean that there are any less of us gays and lesbians - you are just institutionalizing discrimination.