June 12, 2013 in Nation/World

Russia passes anti-gay bill by big margin

Measure bans use of LGBT information
Nataliya Vasilyeva Associated Press
 

MOSCOW – A bill that stigmatizes gay people and bans giving children any information about homosexuality won overwhelming approval Tuesday in Russia’s lower house of parliament.

Hours before the State Duma passed the Kremlin-backed law in a 436-0 vote with one abstention, more than two dozen protesters were attacked by hundreds of anti-gay activists and then detained by police.

The bill banning the “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations” still needs to be passed by the appointed upper house and signed into law by President Vladimir Putin, but neither step is in doubt.

The measure is part of an effort to promote traditional Russian values instead of Western liberalism, which the Kremlin and the Russian Orthodox Church see as corrupting Russian youth and contributing to the protests against Putin’s rule.

A widespread hostility to homosexuality is shared by much of Russia’s political and religious elite. Lawmakers have accused gays of decreasing Russia’s already low birth rates and said they should be barred from government jobs, undergo forced medical treatment or be exiled.

The State Duma passed another bill on Tuesday that makes offending religious feelings a crime punishable by up to three years in prison. The bill, which passed 308-2, was introduced last year after three members of the Pussy Riot punk group were convicted of “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred” for an impromptu anti-Putin protest inside Moscow’s main cathedral and given two-year sentences.

Before the anti-gay vote, rights activists attempted to hold a “kissing rally” outside the State Duma, located across the street from Red Square in central Moscow, but they were attacked by hundreds of Orthodox Christian activists and members of pro-Kremlin youth groups. The mostly burly young men with closely cropped hair pelted the activists with eggs, shouting obscenities and homophobic slurs at them.

Riot police moved in, detaining more than two dozen protesters, almost all of them gay rights activists.

The legislation will impose hefty fines for providing information about the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community to minors or holding gay pride rallies.

Foreign citizens arrested under the new law can be deported or jailed for up to 15 days and then deported.

Russia decriminalized homosexuality in 1993, but anti-gay sentiment remains high. Russia also is considering banning citizens of countries that allow same-sex marriage from adopting Russian children.

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