Russian President Vladimir Putin submitted a number of new amendments to the country’s Constitution, including one that would define marriage as between “a man and a woman.” Last month, he said same-sex marriage will not be permitted in the country as long as he is president.
Putin announced he would introduce amendments during his State of the Nation Address earlier this year, arguing they were necessary to bolster democracy. Critics, on the other hand, argue they are an attempt for the president to retain power after his current term ends in 2024.
One of the proposed amendments would give parliament the power to appoint the prime minister instead of the president, leading some to believe Putin’s ultimate goal is to remain on as prime minister himself when his presidential term expires.
The Kremlin-controlled parliament looks ready to approve Putin’s amendments in a final reading next week, which will be followed by a nationwide vote, to be held on April 22.
An opinion poll by Levada last month showed 47% of Russians reporting they believed Putin was using the referendum in order to expand and retain his power. Even in spite of this, 72% said they planned to vote in favor, according to The Washington Post.
Another of the other proposed amendments promises to honor “ancestors who bequeathed to us their ideals and a belief in God,” which should please the powerful Russian Orthodox Church, which had proposed including a reference to God in the Constitution.
Putin signed an anti-gay, so-called “propaganda” bill into law in 2013, which prohibits the promotion of homosexuality to minors. It has been used to stop demonstrations and Pride marches, and was cited as cause for confiscating children’s drawings in 2018. They were later cleared of any violation of the law.
The Russian government has also been widely criticized for not stopping a series of anti-LGBTQ detentions, tortures, and killings taking place in Chechnya since 2017. The Chechen Republic is a federal subject of Russia.