By Lana Leonard GLAAD.org | March 10, 2022
On Saturday the State Department urged US citizens to leave Russia immediately. The US stated that there would be little the US Embassy in Moscow could do for American citizens in the country due to war in the Ukraine and the highest tensions between the US and Russia since the Cold War.
Brittany Griner, seven-time all-star WNBA player and two-time Olympic gold medalist, will spend Women’s History Month in Russian detention after the Russian Federal Custom Service of Moscow Sheremetyevo International Airport claims it found vape cartridges containing cannabis oil in Griner’s luggage.
Griner was returning to Moscow to play in Russia’s Premier League and FIBA Europe’s EuroLeague Women with UMMC Ekaterinburg.
However, Griner is not the only one. About half of the WNBA’s 144 players traveled internationally to play basketball during the off-season.
One reason Griner and other WNBA players compete on international basketball teams is to make extra money. Compared to NBA players like LeBron James–the NBA’s top earner–who makes approximately $346,000,000 while the very best players in the WNBA (including Griner) top out at about $228,000.
Griner makes approximately $1 million per season playing for UMMC Ekaterinburg–six times what she makes playing for Arizona’s Phoenix Mercury. Additionally, Andrey Kozitsyn, president of the UMMC Ekaterinburg team, is one of the 210 oligarchs close to the Kremlin on what is known as “Putin’s List”.
Inequality in earnings adds insult to, what is now, life threatening endangerment.
Griner, a queer woman of color and forthright LGBTQ advocate, is in a precarious situation due to the Ukrainian War. She could spend a maximum of 10 years in Russian prison. There is also concern for what else lies ahead for Griner in a country that is notorious for its racism and anti-LGBTQ Laws. Laws that are not so different from the slew of anti-LGBTQ laws, and bills moving through the US state legislature.
Amid income inequality, America is adopting Putin-style anti-LGBTQ laws by using LGBTQ people as political fodder as well as restricting LGBTQ rights with the same “protecting children” rhetoric.
Florida’s Parental Rights in Education Bill or “Don’t Say Gay/Trans” bill has stark similarities to Putin’s 2013 anti-gay propaganda law, which criminalizes LGBTQ people and advocates for coming out and defending LGBTQ rights in the name of children and traditional family values. The Florida House of Representatives passed the bill Feb. 24–coincidentally, the same day Putin’s army invaded Ukraine–and the bill passed the Florida Senate on Tuesday. The “Don’t Say Gay” bill will prohibit classroom discussion of gender identity and sexual orientation. The bill is written vaguely, yet broadly – it could ban children from talking about their LGBTQ parents, or about LGBTQ history, like the tragic 2016 Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando.
The bill would allow parents to sue the school district if they teach or discuss the LGBTQ community in any way.
“This bill brands Florida land of the ‘less free’ by legalizing censorship and harming LGBTQ students and families. Banning discussion of LGBTQ people in school is an effort to silence and shame, to divide and disrespect, when all students should feel safe to learn about themselves and each other,” said Sarah Kate Ellis, President and CEO of GLAAD, in a statement. “To every LGBTQ child and every LGBTQ parent in Florida, you do belong and we know that history is on our side. Governor DeSantis is playing political football with LGBTQ Floridians. Other GOP leaders around the country who claim to be LGBTQ allies should be speaking against this ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill, urging Gov. DeSantis to veto it, and fighting the tidal wave of anti-LGBTQ legislation around the country. Gov. DeSantis’ disdain and cruelty towards LGBTQ Floridians is noted and appalling.”
In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott–with support of Attorney General Ken Paxton–ordered state agencies to investigate gender-affirming care as child abuse, even as every major medical association supports such care, calling it evidence-based, aligned with best practices and lifesaving. Families have already been investigated, although a Travis County judge has already issued a restraining order against the Department of Family and Protective Services’ investigation into one family. Texas Children’s Hospital (the largest pediatric hospital in the country) already halted providing gender-affirming therapy due to Abbott’s order.
“The mission of Texas Children’s Hospital is to create a healthier future for all children, including transgender children, within the bounds of the law. After assessing the Attorney General’s and Governor’s actions, Texas Children’s Hospital paused hormone-related prescription therapies for gender-affirming services. This step was taken to safeguard our healthcare professionals and impacted families from potential criminal legal ramifications,” wrote the hospital in a statement.
Bills in both Idaho and Alabama would penalize LGBTQ people and allies worse than or equal to those convicted of sexual abuse of a minor.
Idaho state representatives are seeking a life sentence to providers of gender-affirming care for LGBTQ minors including prescribing hormone (or puberty) blockers and gender affirming surgeries under House Bill 675 compared to Idaho’s 25-years to life prison sentence for sexual abuse of minors under the age of 16. Lawmakers are also looking to make it illegal for families to leave the state to acquire care for their transgender and gender nonconforming children. Monday afternoon the Idaho House voted 51-14 on another inaccurate and harmful bill, criminalizing librarians in universities, colleges, museums and high schools for distributing inclusive content regarding LGBTQ inclusivity, which is deemed “material harmful to minors” or “pornography”.
Alabama too is introducing federal prosecution for deliverance of gender-affirming care under bill House Bill 266. If passed, medical professionals could face up to 10 years in prison compared to the state’s 10-20 year prison sentence for sexual abuse of minors under the age of 16.
These bills are consistent with Putin’s “gay propaganda law.”
The continued danger associated with weaponizing false narratives of LGBTQ pathology has monumental effects for the future of LGBTQ children in America and is consistent with Putin’s strategy to criminalize and silence the existence of LGBTQ people. Putin uses regular manipulation of the media as well as harassment of LGBTQ people to turn the Russian population against LGBTQ people.
“For our LGBTQ+ Americans, let’s finally get the bipartisan Equality Act to my desk. The onslaught of state laws targeting transgender Americans and their families is simply wrong. As I said last year, especially to our younger transgender Americans, I’ll always have your back as your President, so you can be yourself and reach your God-given potential,” said President Biden in his State of the Union address March 1.
LGBTQ people and allies in every state where bills are proposed targeting LGBTQ people and youth need to contact their local legislators and tell them to reject these bills and speak up for LGBTQ citizens. For more on anti-LGBTQ and anti-transgender legislation go to Freedom For All Americans Legislative Tracker. And support these state and local groups who protect, defend and advocate for LGBTQ and gender nonconforming youth.
To support LGBTQ Floridians you can take action with Equality Florida
Go to Equality Texas for resources if you or a family member are contacted by the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS).
Contact Alabama State Representatives co-sponsoring HB266:
Wesley Allen– email: firstname.lastname@example.org and phone: 334-261-0593
B. Craig Lipscomb– email: email@example.com and phone: 334-261-0546
Ritchie Whorton– email: firstname.lastname@example.org and phone: 256-218-3090