The Story Behind Russian’s Gay Adoption Ban

During the same month that U. S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy was issuing his opinion that the Defense of Marriage Act “humiliated tens of thousands of children now being raised by same-sex couples,” Russia’s House of Parliament voted unanimously to ban the adoption of Russian children by same-sex couples from abroad.  The House also voted to forbid single people who are citizens or permanent residents of countries that allow same sex marriage to become adoptive parents or legal guardians of Russian children.

Children’s rights ombudsman Pavel Astakhov vowed to do everything possible to “ensure that Russian orphans are only adopted by traditional, heterosexual families.”

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, who has already expressed support for the adoption ban, has promised to sign the bill once it is submitted for its final reading during the Russian parliament’s autumn session. Putin has strong support from the Head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, who sees the recognition of same sex unions as a “portent of doom” and has called upon Russians to ensure that sin is never formalized by the rule of law. In a Sunday service in Red Square’s Kazan Cathedral on July 20th, the Patriarch said “we face enormous temptations when countries start approving sin and codifying it into law in order to justify it.”

Russia’s Patriarch echoes the sentiments of Pope Francis who has described same sex marriage as a “destructive attack on God’s plan.”  He has also said that gay adoption is a form of discrimination against children.  In 2010, as Argentina’s Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio, he protested a bill to allow same sex marriage and gay adoption in Argentina.  Writing that “the Argentine people will face a situation whose outcome can seriously harm the family … at stake is the identity and survival of the family … at stake is the total rejection of God’s law engraved on our hearts.”  Despite the Cardinal’s protests, Argentina approved same sex marriage in 2010 making it the first Latin American country to legalize the unions.

 

Unlike Argentina, there remains strong public support for the same sex adoption ban in Russia.  While homosexual behavior was decriminalized in Russia in 1993, a poll by the Levada Center, an independent research center, revealed that 38 percent of Russians believe that homosexuality is a disorder, and that homosexuals need medical treatment.  Another 13 percent believe that homosexuals should be prosecuted.

It is likely that the Russian people are responding to some recent high-profile cases in which Russian children were adopted and later, sexually abused by same sex couples.  In fact, during the same week that Justice Kennedy was issuing his ruling on same sex marriage, a district court in Indiana was hearing arguments against a gay couple who purchased a child from a Russian surrogate and sexually abused that child for the first six years of his life.

According to international media reports, including Pravda and Australia’s Sydney-Herald, Mark Newton, 42, an American, and his Australian “spouse,” Peter Truong, 26, traveled to Russia in 2005, and paid a surrogate $8,000 to carry their child.  Shortly after they returned home to the United States with the newborn, they began a six year siege of sexual abuse which included shopping the child throughout the world to be abused—and videotaped—by at least eight men in the United States, Germany, Australia, and France.  Creating a lucrative business for the “parents” of the child through the selling of pornographic photographs and videos on pedophile sites, including the Boy Lovers Network, the district court concluded that the same-sex couple created this child solely for the purpose of sexual exploitation, and sentenced Mr. Newton to 40 years in prison.  Truong awaits sentencing.

Once described as a model family in an ABC Far North Queensland, Australia television documentary titled, “Two Dads are Better Than One” which aired on July 14, 2010, the gay couple told the interviewer that “becoming parents was hard work…but they’d do it all over again if they had to.”  This is exactly the kind of love story that seems to have motivated Justice Kennedy to write that same sex families deserve the “integrity and closeness” that his ruling would provide.

Justice Kennedy often refers to his own idyllic childhood during the post-war boom in the Golden State of California.  In a speech he once gave, Justice Kennedy said that growing up in California for him was like the movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life.”  He seems to believe he can bring a similarly “wonderful life” to others if he only rules the “right” way.  In fact, in an article entitled “Supreme Leader: The Arrogance of Anthony Kennedy,” Jeffrey Rosen of The New Republic wrote that “Anthony Kennedy doesn’t much care whether his abstractions are true; the important thing for him is that he wants them to be true.”

On June 30th, Russian President Putin signed a controversial law strengthening the penalties for “propagating homosexuality among minors.”  This bill introduces fines for propaganda of non-traditional sexual relationships to minors—including in the media, and on the internet.  The bill also prohibits the “obtrusive spreading of information about non-traditional sexual relationships that may arouse interest in such relationships.”

Justice Kennedy wants to believe that all love stories have happy endings—he seems to believe that we are all a Supreme Court decision away from a perfect life.  But, the Russian people, as well as their Patriarch and President know that there are some stories that may not end happily.

Editor’s note: Pictured above are Mark Newton (right) and Peter Truong with their adopted son outside their home in Cairns, Australia. (photo source: Brisbanetimes.com.au)

Anne Hendershott

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Anne Hendershott is Professor of Sociology and Director of the Veritas Center at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio. She is the author of Status Envy: The Politics of Catholic Higher Education; The Politics of Abortion; and The Politics of Deviance (Encounter Books). She is also the co-author of Renewal: How a New Generation of Priests and Bishops are Revitalizing the Catholic Church (2013).

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