The media frenzy surrounding the upcoming Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia has highlighted an ever-growing divide between Russian and the rest of Europe over the rights and civil liberties of homosexuals.
While much of the Western world has adopted more liberal social views, Russia has gone in the opposite direction.
That trend accelerated in June, when Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a new law banning “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations,” a less-than-subtle way of severely curtailing the civil rights of Russian homosexuals.
The situation further deteriorated when Russia's sports minister said international athletes at the Olympic games who violate these new laws “will be held accountable.”
European leaders in particular have been vocal in their disagreements with the conservative nature of the new Russian legislation. The Council of Europe recently released a statement demanding that the Russian government respect the rights of LGBT athletes.
Prominent British intellectual Stephen Fry, meanwhile, wrote an open letter to the members of the International Olympic Committee comparing the Russian anti-gay laws to those the Nazis levied against the Jews prior to the 1936 Berlin Olympics.
The nature of the difference, according to a new Pew Research poll analyzing international acceptance of homosexuality, seems to be largely dependent on the separation of church and state.
Heavily religious nations such as Russia — where the Russian Orthodox church enjoys heavy influence in politics — are much less likely to be accepting of homosexuals. Among European nations polled, Russia was ranked dead last in tolerance of homosexuality.