The Homophobic Law of the Georgian Dream is Russian and Applies to Everyone, Including You – We Will Explain Why

ნატალია ავალიანი/მედია აპრილი

Do you know that you might watch your favorite movies and TV series censored and see them with cut or hidden footage?

Or that you might be banned from explaining gender and sexual orientation to your children?

The homophobic law announced by the government primarily affects the queer community, but it affects everyone.

The hate law restricts any citizen’s freedom of education, assembly, and expression.

“Georgian Dream” finally submitted the draft law of hate, which it has been actively using for the election campaign since February 29. This is a Russian-style law, about which we have heard in various forms from television broadcasts, parliamentary tribunes, constitutional debates, and the same messages were repeated almost everywhere, as if it only fights “propaganda” and will not limit rights.

Let’s start by saying that there is no “LGBT propaganda” and the draft law also limits rights, including freedom of expression. In addition, it provides for fines under the Code of Administrative Offenses and imprisonment under the Criminal Code.

It should be noted that these are not constitutional amendments, but the law, which the governing team named “On Family Values ​​and Protection of Minors” and which will include changes in 18 laws. The support of 76 deputies is enough for the adoption of this package. For a bill to become law, it needs three readings and then the president’s signature. If the president vetoes the changes, then the parliament should try to overcome this veto. After that, the draft is again sent to the president, and if she does not sign it again, the right is given to the chairman of the parliament, after which the law will come into force. However, it is clear even to a non-lawyer that the project contradicts the main law of Georgia, the Constitution, which means that the hate law, if adopted, may be challenged in the Constitutional Court.

At the moment, the draft law is under consideration by the committee. On June 20, a total of five committees supported the adoption of the legislative package for consideration in the first reading at the plenary session.

We have already told you how the government tried to justify the need for this law and how it used the methods developed by the Kremlin. Now I will tell you in detail what is written in the project of changes, the authors and initiators of which are Shalva Papuashvili, Mamuka Mdinaradze, Anri Okhanashvili, Rati Ionatamishvili, Maka Bochorishvili, Davit Matikashvili, Tengiz Sharmanashvili, Irakli Shatakishvili and Sozar Subari.

The goal of the draft law is “strengthening family values ​​based on the union of men and women and mechanisms for the protection of minors”. If you read any law at least once, you will find definitions of terms everywhere, however, in this case, the authorities decided to explain what women, men and biological sex mean. Their dictionary is as follows:

  • Woman – a female person identified according to inherited genetic characteristics;
  • Man – a male person identified by hereditary genetic characteristics;
  • Biological sex — sex identified by inherited genetic characteristics.

Another important detail concerns incest. The government is trying to make it seem as if, along with the non-existent “LGBT propaganda”, incest “propaganda” may also happen in the future. It is unclear how “Georgian Dream” connected incest and LGBTQIA+ rights to each other, because incest is sexual intercourse between close relatives. However, taking into account the politics of the Georgian Dream, we can assume that the purpose of this may be to present LGBTQ+ people as “promiscuous”, as if incest is related to sexual orientation.

As we already mentioned, this is another Russian-style law, and talking about “LGBT propaganda” in general is part of the Kremlin’s propaganda. If you have a question why we call it Russian, you will read it in the article.

Marriage, Adoption, Restriction of Transition and Others

The definition of marriage, which was changed by Georgian Dream at the constitutional level in 2017, in the draft law “On Family Values ​​and Protection of Minors” is found as follows: “The voluntary union of two people of different biological sex for the purpose of creating a family, which meets the requirements established by Georgian legislation.” The document also states that registration of other types of union, such as marriage, and/or recognition as marriage by a legal act is not allowed.

Because of this entry, the Civil Code is also changing, according to which marriage was a voluntary union between a woman and a man, but now it has been “specified” and added that it means “two people of different biological sex”.

In addition, according to the amendments, marriages registered or recognized abroad will not have any legal force in Georgia, if it contradicts the conditions established for marriage under Georgian legislation. At the same time, the authorities want to recognize as inadmissible the “registration and/or recognition by a legal act of a relationship expressed as a sign of sexual orientation” between people, at least one of whom is queer.

As for adoption and foster care, the draft clearly states that adoption and foster care are prohibited to anyone except a cisgender, heterosexual person. The document does not specify who and how to establish a person’s identity.

The issues listed in this sub-chapter have not been available to the LGBTQIA+ community before, including due to the limitations in the law, and the question arises – why did the government need to add these records now? Activists assume that the reason for this is the upcoming parliamentary elections and the Georgian Dream wants to cover up the real problems in the country with fiction.

The following entries in the draft amendment are directly transphobic. An article is added to the law on health care, which prohibits doctors from performing surgery for the purpose of gender confirmation, as well as “other medical manipulation”. It is unclear what is meant by the latter and whether access to hormones, for example, is included. In case of “violation” of this article of the law, the person who performs a surgical operation or “medical manipulation” shall be criminally liable – a natural person shall be punished with a fine, deprivation of the right to hold a position or work for a term of up to three years or imprisonment for a term of one to four years, and a legal entity – with a fine.

In addition, the law prohibits “indicating a gender other than biological sex” in an identity document or other government-issued document. However, there is a decision of the European Court of Human Rights on a similar case, which calls on the Georgian authorities to implement quick, transparent and affordable procedures for changing the gender marker in the identity document.

Another issue that Georgian Dream wrote in the document and it is not clear what it “protects” with it, refers to the cancellation of such an obligation, reference or agreement imposed at work, “which is aimed at neglecting the biological sex or encouraging its neglect”. The changes are included in the Labor Code and the Law on Public Service  and will apply both to employees with administrative and labor contracts and to interns.

The non-existent "LGBT propaganda" has been used by the Kremlin for political purposes for many years. Their modus operandi is simple: they make the population feel threatened, as if the West is trying to embrace "LGBT propaganda" and thereby damage traditional values, family strength and identity. Then, as if to avoid this situation, people are offered laws that actually restrict human rights and access to free information.

The adoption of the law prohibiting "propaganda", as well as attempts to limit the rights of queers at the legislative level, began in Russia a long time ago, and Georgian practice follows these examples:

- In 2013, a law prohibiting the "propagation of non-traditional sexual relations" among minors was adopted.

— That same year, the government amended the law on adoption of unaccompanied minors, banning adoptions by queer couples, as well as unmarried people from countries where marriage equality is allowed.

- In 2023, "gender reassignment surgery, hormonal therapy, changing gender in documents" was banned. At the same time, there was a record that if one of the people in the marriage "changed sex", the marriage would be annulled, and those who had gone through the transition process before the law was passed, were forbidden to adopt a child.

A few examples will certainly remind you of the Georgian reality. For example, the marriage of queer couples is also restricted in Russia, and the constitution states that the family is a union of a woman and a man. Despite the constitutional guarantees, they also decided to further strengthen the ban and made changes to the Family Code by which they refused to recognize same-sex marriages registered abroad.

Restriction of Freedom of Education

The homophobic legislative package significantly restricts the freedom of education. In particular, in all types of educational institutions, including universities, it is prohibited to enter such information and/or by the employee of the said institution within the scope of the activity of this institution and/or in the territory of the same institution, to spread or facilitate the spread of such information, which is aimed at the “popularization” of queerness.

Relevant changes are included  in the law on early and preschool education and education, the law on general education, the law on professional education ,  the law on higher education. Penalties are specified in the Code of Administrative Offenses, and in case of violation of these articles, a natural person will be fined 1,500 GEL, and a legal entity – 4,000 GEL, in both cases “confiscation of the object of the violation” is provided. For example, in the Faculty of Literature at a university, if a lecturer discusses any queer work, which the law considers “popularization”, the lecturer and the university can be fined with these amounts.

The authorized person of the Ministry of Education examines these cases and imposes the appropriate fine. In addition, the bill also states that if the “law violation” does not require an administrative investigation, the authorized person of the Ministry will review the case on the spot and fine the “law violator” on the spot. This person is also responsible for the execution of the decree on confiscation.

To put it simply, it might be possible to ban, for example, teaching gender in universities. Also, the discussion of numerous samples of fiction in schools and universities. Students studying cinematography probably won’t be able to see and discuss the films of iconic filmmaker Pedro Almadovar. Also, the question arises, will future physicists and mathematicians not know Alan Turing? What if it is forbidden to report that a man whose ideas preceded the creation of early versions of the modern computer was criminalized for his sexual identity and sentenced to chemical castration, after which he was found dead two years later at the age of 41? Are students interested in art not familiar with Andy Warhol? Will literary scholars be banned from knowing Oscar Wilde’s biography or reading Virginia Woolf’s novels? Or are future lawyers taught at the university about the Constitution of Georgia, where it is clearly written that all people are equal? Or an anti-discrimination law against discriminating against people on any grounds? Does this count as “promotion”? One of the main problems with this law is that it is vague as well as homophobic. In practice, this may mean that enforcement will depend not on the record, but on the will of the authorities.

The non-existent "LGBT propaganda" criteria in Russia were signed in 2023. According to the decree of Roskomnadzor, information is considered "LGBT propaganda" if it:

— convinces of the attractiveness of "non-traditional" sexual relationships, preferences and attitudes and creates a positive image of persons in "non-traditional" sexual relationships;

— creates a "distorted idea" of social equality on "traditional" and "non-traditional" relationships;

— justifies the rejection of "traditional" sexual relations in favor of "non-traditional" ones;

— arouses interest in "non-traditional" sexual relations and helps change negative attitudes to positive ones by providing information about "non-traditional" sexual relations;

— justifies the superiority of "non-traditional" sexual relations over "traditional" ones.

The result was that even before it went into effect, bookstores, libraries, and streaming companies either removed or censored books, movies, and TV shows that featured LGBTQ+ characters.

The restriction also applies to users of the social network whose content is accessed by more than 500,000 users per day. They should also not allow the distribution of materials "promoting non-traditional sexual relations and (or) preferences". What's more — they're required to specifically seek out (and remove) content on their resource that contains "promotion of homosexuality, pedophilia, and gender reassignment." In addition, Roskomnadzor was ordered to monitor the Internet to block such information and was given the right to block sites without a court order. Previously, in the case of "LGBT propaganda" among minors, it was possible to block it only by a court decision.

Censorship and Restriction of Media

According to the hate law, it will not be allowed for the broadcaster to spread such information on its air, which the legislator considers as “popularization” of the LGBTQIA+ topic. It is written in the document that this prohibition applies to the broadcasting of a creative work only to the extent that “it will not be allowed to broadcast a scene depicting an intimate relationship or incest between members of the same biological sex on the basis of sexual orientation”. The broadcaster shall not be held responsible for the violation of this article, if it did not exercise actual control over the dissemination of relevant information.

Simply put, after the adoption of the law, we will see censored series such as: Friends, Grey’s Anatomy, Modern Family, Game Of Thrones, House Of Dragons, Anne With An E, Sex Education. We don’t yet know exactly in what form they will be censored, but the shots where “intimate relations are visible” will either be cut or covered from these TV series. The question arises, what can the state consider “intimate”? And if the purpose of the law is really to protect minors, what is the need to specify a person’s sexual orientation? Is it okay to show a heterosexual couple’s “intimate relationship” to children, and is it a queer couple’s? The “Georgian Dream” document does not provide an answer to these questions.

As for advertising, the identical text is repeated in this article. In other words, it is permissible to distribute only such advertisements that concern the relationship between a man and a woman. In case of violation of this article , if the advertiser exercised actual control over its distribution, the natural person will be fined 800 GEL, and the legal entity – 2,500 GEL, with “confiscation of the object of the violation”. The hate law defines confiscation as the forced, free transfer to the property of the relevant municipality. These cases are considered by a structural unit or an authorized individual or legal entity determined by the City Hall. In addition, the draft law also states that if administrative proceedings are not necessary to identify the “offender” or to establish other factual circumstances, this person will consider the case on the spot and impose a fine on the “offender” on the spot – a fine receipt will be issued, which “at the same time is an administrative offense protocol”. This person is also responsible for the execution of the decree on confiscation. When appealing a fine, the structural unit or authorized person determined by the City Hall considers the complaint and makes a decision.

However, this level of censorship was not enough for the Georgian dream, and the government decided to interfere in what a parent talks about, for example, and what information they provide to their child. It is written in the hate law that it is not allowed to provide information to a minor through direct communication with him and/or to create the possibility of access to such information, which concerns LGBTQ+ people, among others, the restriction includes the provision of creative work. According to this article, for example, a parent who teaches his child that all people are equal can be fined, as well as the media, which covers LGBTQIA+ rights; McDonald’s, because of the Elton John pamphlets, as well as publishers who might have queer stories printed in books for young adults. In case of violation of this article, a natural person will be fined 1,000 GEL, and a legal person – 3,000 GEL, with “confiscation of the object of violation”. Similar cases are considered by the appropriate person determined by the City Hall and the procedures for fines are identical.

It should be noted that if a person is fined for information on LGBTQIA+ rights in an educational institution, as well as for spreading advertising or providing information to a minor, in case of repetition of any of these three actions, the Criminal Code will be enforced against him and the “violator” can be punished with a fine, holding a position or being deprived of the right to work for a period of time up to three years or imprisonment for up to two years.

The law, which at first only applied to minors, was expanded in Russia in a few years. With the changes of November 2022 , "LGBT propaganda", propaganda of pedophilia, as well as the dissemination of any kind of information about queers, which "facilitates the reassignment of sex among adolescents", were banned for the entire population, regardless of age.

According to the law, the changes affected: Internet, media, books, audiovisual services, cinema and advertising. According to the new version, fines have also been tightened: citizens, officials and legal entities are fined from 50 thousand to 5 million rubles for "LGBT propaganda".

In addition, in 2015, Roskomnadzor blocked the "Kids 404" account on the VKontakte social network on the territory of Russia. According to the decision of the district court, it was included in the register of prohibited information, because it disseminated information about the problems of homosexual, bisexual and transgender teenagers.

Freedom of Gathering

The hate law also restricts freedom of gathering. The document prohibits public gatherings and/or demonstrations that, according to Georgian Dream, are aimed at “popularizing” queerness or queer relationships. In the draft law, we do not find a detailed explanation of what can be included in this framework, and the vagueness creates the dangers of arbitrary interpretation of the homophobic law.

According to the relevant changes in the Law on Assemblies and Manifestations, in case of violation of this record of the homophobic law, the “authorized representative” will explain to the participants of this type of action or assembly “about the illegal nature” and demand the termination of the action or assembly. If the rally or gathering is not stopped within 15 minutes of this request, the law enforcement body will use “measures provided by the legislation of Georgia” to stop it. In this way, the government announces police measures against any gathering that can be considered “promotional”.

In addition, according to the current legislation in Georgia, the City Hall has the right not to allow an action or assembly to take place if there is clear data verified by the police that this action or assembly poses a direct threat to the constitutional order, life and health of citizens. Georgian Dream would like to add another requirement to this record, according to which the City Hall will be allowed to not allow a rally or assembly to take place if there are clear data verified by the police that “it is expected that a person belongs to a gender different from his biological sex, to the same biological sex Promotion of sexual orientation or incest between representatives”.

In Russia, using this article, LGBTQIA+ activists were banned from gathering and protesting. For example, in 2014, activists were arrested with a rainbow flag and the inscription "Marriage! Children! Security".

"Demonstration of LGBT people" is punishable, that is, if we judge by the practices of the Russian court, the appearance of LGBTQ+ people in public space, in the media is punishable. This and the distribution of "information encouraging gender change in adolescents" lead to fines: from 50 thousand to 4 million rubles. And in the event that a citizen of a foreign country or a stateless person violates the law, administrative expulsion from the Russian Federation is provided for.

Putin signed the law into law at the end of 2022, in December, and the first case under this article was filed in Russia on January 10, 2023 against Popcorn Books, a publisher that published books about self-identification, sexism, racism, body image and other issues. A Duma deputy filed a complaint against them, stating that the publishing house not only continued to sell books that violated the law, but also placed on the cover quotes from Article 29 of the Russian Constitution, which deals with freedom of speech and prohibition of censorship.

It is also worth noting that the hate law provides for the declaration of May 17 as a day of rest – after the church, the state refers to the day of “family sanctity and respect for parents”, which was established by the Patriarchate after clergy and parishioners violently dispersed queer people and activists on May 17, 2013. May 17 is the international day of fight against homophobia, biphobia and transphobia, and the Patriarchate established the “Family Sanctity Day” in 2014 as a counterweight to this.

Observing the politics of the Georgian Dream shows us that the initiatives that appear to protect someone are actually used to oppress specific groups. Against the background of the fact that the independence and transparency of the courts in Georgia have been questioned by a number of authoritative organizations, it is also dangerous how the laws are interpreted.

The management team is trying to convince the population that the homophobic law is not discriminatory and serves good purposes. However, apart from the fact that it is Russian in content, like the Kremlin’s practice, it “suspiciously” coincides with the pre-election period.