President Obama strongly condemned Russia’s anti-gay laws Tuesday night on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.
“I’ve been very clear that when it comes to universal rights, when it comes to people’s basic freedoms, that whether you are discriminating on the basis of race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation, you are violating the basic morality that should transcend every country, and I have no patience for countries that try to treat gays or lesbians or transgender persons in ways that intimidate them or are harmful to them,” the president said.
He also pointed out that Russia is not the only country with a regressive stance toward the LGBT community.
“What’s happening in Russia is not unique,” he said. “When I traveled to Africa there were some countries that are doing a lot of good things for their people, who we’re working with and helping on development issues but in some cases have persecuted gays and lesbians — and it makes for some uncomfortable press conferences sometimes — but one of the things that I think is very important for me to speak out on is making sure that people are treated fairly and justly, because that’s what we stand for and I believe that’s not…just unique to America, but should apply everywhere.”
This sets up a opportunity to ask Republicans how they feel about laws that are ostensibly designed to restrict “gay propaganda” and defend the feelings of religious people. Some low-level conservatives have been supportive of Russia’s efforts.
Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) have been attempting to reframe the debate over LGBT rights, suggesting that after same-sex marriage becomes legal the next step would be to ban anti-gay commentary, as if racist commentary was suddenly banned after the civil rights movement.
If Cruz and Rubio want to defend the right to offend other people, they could make a strong statement by defending the rights of gays and lesbians in Russia.