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Top Russian Judge Wants Legal System To Embrace Gender 'Differences'

  • Robert Coalson

Russian Constitutional Court head Valery Zorkin sharply criticized unspecified Western laws that "declare untraditional models of behavior of sexual and gender minorities as being within the law, trying to equate men and women while ignoring their natural biological differences."

Russian Constitutional Court head Valery Zorkin sharply criticized unspecified Western laws that "declare untraditional models of behavior of sexual and gender minorities as being within the law, trying to equate men and women while ignoring their natural biological differences."

The long-serving head of Russia's Constitutional Court has warned of an "increasing danger of lawlessness" and called for the development of a "postsecular" legal framework that would, among other things, recognize the "natural biological differences" of men and women.

Addressing the 20th World Russian People's Council, Constitutional Court Chairman Valery Zorkin said on November 2 that the current international situation "brings to memory the words of St. Paul the Apostle, who are the dawn of our era warned that the secret of lawlessness was already in action."

The World Russian People's Council was established by the Russian Orthodox Church in 1993 and is formally headed by the Russian patriarch.

Lawlessness, Zorkin argued, has been increasing in international relations because the 1945 Yalta agreements under which the Soviet Union, the United States, and Great Britain agreed to a postwar division of spheres of influence have been called into question.

Zorkin sharply criticized unspecified Western laws that "declare untraditional models of behavior of sexual and gender minorities as being within the law, trying to equate men and women while ignoring their natural biological differences."

He also attacked "state authorities and governments" that "invade...quite happy families."

The position has raised eyebrows since Article 19 of the Russian Constitution guarantees equal rights and freedoms to all citizens regardless of sex, race, nationality, language, religious convictions, among other characteristics.

"Men and women shall enjoy equal rights and freedoms and have equal opportunities to exercise them," Article 19 concludes.

Zorkin sparked controversy in May when he compared statements by U.S. President Barack Obama about American "exceptionalism" to Nazi German propaganda.

"Any objective, educated person can see in Obama's statements an almost verbatim quoting of the leading politicians and propagandists of Germany's Third Reich, including Adolf Hitler," Zorkin said without offering any examples.

In 2014, Zorkin published a long essay in the Russian government newspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta in which he described serfdom as the "staple" that held Russian society together.

The 1861 abolition of serfdom by Tsar Alexander II, Zorkin said, exacerbated "social tensions" between the tsar and the peasantry by eliminating the "main shock absorber" between them: the nobility.

The business daily Vedomosti noted at the time that it was "strange" to hear a defense of serfdom from the head of the Constitutional Court, "which, in theory, should defend the supremacy of the law and equality before the law."

Zorkin graduated with a Soviet law degree in 1964 and became a professor, lecturing on Soviet (atheist) law at the academy of the U.S.S.R. Interior Ministry. Ironically, he specialized in the teachings of 19th-century Russian political philosopher Boris Chicherin, who regarded Alexander II's reforms as "the best monument of Russian legislation."

Zorkin headed the Constitutional Court from 1991 until 1993, when he was forced to step aside during a violent dispute between then-President Boris Yeltsin and the elected Russian parliament. He was reinstated as a judge on the court in 1994 and named chairman again in 2003.

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    Robert Coalson

    Robert Coalson covers Russia, the Balkans, and Eastern Europe. Send story tips to coalsonr@rferl.org

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