Russian President Vladimir Putin denied that his country discriminates against gays and lesbians, in an interview with 60 Minutes.
Putin told CBS News anchor Charlie Rose said he didn't see "anything undemocratic" about his country's ban on what Russia calls "gay propaganda."
Russia enacted a law banning "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations" in 2013, basically prohibiting any positive treatment of LGBT issues in forums accessible to minors. And ever since, the group Human Rights Watch has documented an increase in antigay violence and harassment in Russia that it calls a "license to harm."
"I believe we should leave kids in peace," Putin told Rose in the interview, portions of which were broadcast last night. "We should give them a chance to grow and help them to realize who they are and decide for themselves ... do they consider themselves a man or a woman? A female? A male? Do they want to live in a normal natural marriage or a nontraditional marriage?"
Putin's implication that gay and lesbian people are a danger to children is an oft-cited concern among members of his ruling United Russia party, most notably arising when Putin warned LGBT Olympic spectators and athletes to "leave children alone" in the run-up to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
Putin also defended Russian laws preventing gays and lesbians from adopting children, telling Rose that some gays and lesbians agreed with them.
"The problem of sexual minorities in Russia had been deliberately exaggerated on the outside for political reasons, I believe, without any good basis," Putin said.
The Russian president explained that in some ways, his country was ahead of the United States when it comes to discrimination. Putin cited the fact that some states still have laws on the books criminalizing homosexuality, despite rulings by the Supreme Court, specifically the 2003 decision in Lawrence v. Texas, striking down all remaining sodomy laws.
"It's well known that in four states in America, homosexual orientation is a crime, whether it's good or bad we don't know. We know there is the ruling of the Supreme Court, but this problem has not completely disappeared, it's not completely removed from American legislation, but we don't have that," Putin said. (Specifically, however, the laws ban gay sex, not orientation, and have been rendered unenforceable by the Lawrence decision.)
Putin's interview followed an announcement by the Kremlin that he would meet with singer Sir Elton John, as The Advocate reported, with the president agreeing to discuss any issue, including LGBT rights. But it also followed an action by Putin to honor a Russian lawmaker well-known for his efforts to ban “gay propaganda” and prosecute Western pop culture stars who support LGBT rights, like John.
Vitaly Milonov is the St. Petersburg politician who received a medal of the order “For Service to the Fatherland” in the second degree, according to the U.K. newspaper The Guardian. He's also a key architect of Russia's nationwide ban on so-called gay propaganda, as he drafted and passed local legislation first, which became the framework for the national law. The announcement said Milonov was recognized for his “active lawmaking efforts and many years of honest work," including relentless antigay campaigning.