The U.S. embassy in Moscow flew a rainbow flag outside its doors in honor of Pride month on Thursday. The move came on the same day Russians begin voting on a series of proposed anti-LGBTQ+ constitutional amendments.
"Today, the U.S. Embassy in Russia displays the LGBTI Pride Flag," the U.S. embassy said in a statement.
It is forbidden to fly rainbow flags on poles outside U.S. embassies or other government buildings without specific authorization. The ban only applies to flag poles, so many government entities find other ways to display the flag. The embassy, for example, suspended the flag from a line strung between two balconies overlooking the street.
The move by the embassy can be seen as an act of support for LGBTQ+ community in the country against the backdrop of increased intolerance. Russians are in the middle of a seven-day plebiscite to approve a series of amendments to the country's constitution proposed by President Vladimir Putin, including one defining marriage as only between a man and woman.
"June is Pride Month and we celebrate that everyone deserves to live a life free from hatred, prejudice, and persecution," the embassy said, also noting the move comes on the day the rainbow flag was "first raised as a symbol of hope and diversity" in 1978.
Reaction on social media to the move by the embassy was generally positive.
One person was so happy seeing the rainbow outside the embassy he posted a recipe for rainbow bread.
There is little the embassy can do legally to influence the outcome of the constitutional plebiscite, but it is clear the United States is standing behind LGBTQ+ persons living in the country.
"LGBTI rights are human rights," the embassy wrote on Instagram. "Human rights are universal. The month of pride is designed to emphasize that everyone deserves to live a life free of hatred, prejudice and persecution."
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