MOSCOW -- The Moscow offices of the ruling United Russia party on July 8 stepped forward as the standard bearer of Russia’s ongoing campaign against gay "propaganda," unveiling a new flag it said it designed to oppose the rainbow flag and to prevent a breakout of “gay fever."
But the initiative was quickly assailed by Russian bloggers who say the flag is blatantly plagiarized from the symbol of a French group that campaigns against gay marriage.
United Russia has countered that it was granted permission to use the image.
Revealed exclusively in the pages of pro-Kremlin newspaper Izvestia, the flag depicts a man and woman and three children holding hands alongside the slogan “real family.” It was cast as a response to the U.S. Supreme Court's decision last month to back a right to gay marriage.
“This is our answer to gay marriages, to this mockery of the notion of the family,” Aleksei Lisovenko, deputy head of the party’s Moscow office, told Izvestia. “We must prevent gay fever in the country and support traditional values.”
Lisovenko told the newspaper that the ruling United Russia party intends to publicly fly the new flag for the first time at a rally in support of “traditional values” on July 8 -- timed to coincide with the Russian Day of Family, Love, and Faith.
Nonetheless, hours before that rally, the flag was assailed by Russian bloggers who accused the Moscow party office of printing a not-so-subtly doctored version of the emblem of La Manif Pour Tous, a French organization that campaigns against same-sex marriage.
RIP Novosti, a satirical Twitter account, posted images of the United Russia flag alongside the French banner, highlighting their unmistakable similarities. The only major difference is the addition of a third child in the United Russia version and the change of background color.
“Moscow’s United Russia has presented a flag for heterosexuals. But since this is United Russia, as usual they stole it” it says:
Although the Izvestia article makes no mention of the French group, United Russia deputy Lisovenko said the party had been granted permission to use the image by La Manif Pour Tous.
In comments to Russian News Service, a radio station, Lisovenko said on July 8 that the Russian designer added a third child to the image because “Russians traditionally have big families.”
The flag fiasco is the latest in a string of unusual Russian reactions that have followed the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on June 26.
Vitaly Milonov, a Legislative Assembly lawmaker in St. Petersburg, proposed banning Facebook after that social network shared a tool that allowed users to overlay the rainbow flag on their profile photographs to show solidarity with the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transexual (LGBT) community.
Vsevolod Chaplin, a spokesman for the Russian Orthodox Church, warned Russians that the United States is out "steal your soul."