Anti-Gay Bill Approved Despite Resistance
Published: January 30, 2013 (Issue # 1744)
MOSCOW ŚáWith aáUnited Russia deputy declaring that Russia is not Sodom andáGomorrah, theáState Duma gave tentative approval toáa bill that would ban ôgay propagandaö toáminors.
But theámeasure, which mirrors similar legislation ináplace ináSt. Petersburg andáseveral other areas, met with unusually strong resistance fromáopposition-minded lawmakers.
Ofáthe 450 deputies, 52 refused toávote onáFriday, while one opposed it, Sergei Kuzin ofáUnited Russia, andáone abstained, Dmitry Nosov ofáthe Liberal Democratic Party. But with theásupport ofáthe other 338 deputies ináattendance, theábill was easily approved ináa first reading.
ôWe live ináRussia, not Sodom andáGomorrah,ö United Russia Deputy Dmitry Sablin said before theávote.
Russia, he said, was ôfounded onáits own traditional values, theáprotection ofáwhich is dearer toáme than even oil andágas.ö
Theábill, which stipulates fines ofáabout 4,000 rubles toá500,000 rubles ($130 toá$16,000) forápromoting homosexuality among minors, was introduced ináthe Duma byáNovosibirsk regional lawmakers ináMarch. Theádate foráits consideration was pushed back several times before Fridayĺs vote.
ôThe bill is being used toádistract people fromámore important topics, such as aábill passed ináa first reading last week giving regions theáoption not toáhold gubernatorial elections,ö said Just Russia Deputy Dmitry Gudkov, who decided not toávote onáthe bill Friday. He made his remarks onáTwitter.
Human rights organizations said theábill would aggravate societal divisions over gay rights.
Sergei Nikitin, head ofáAmnesty International Russia, said theámeasure showed theáworld how backward Russia remained ináits attitude toward gays.
ôItĺs unacceptable toádiscriminate against people because ofátheir sexual orientation,ö he said. ôThe bill contradicts both Russian andáinternational legislation andáin no way will help toáestablish common ground inásociety.ö
InáWashington, theáU.S. State Department said it was ôdeeply concernedö about theábill andánoted that Secretary ofáState Hillary Clinton has been pressing Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov over theáissue forámore than aáyear.
ôYou know how strongly we feel about LGBT rights around theáworld, how strongly theásecretary ofástate personally feels, that nobody should be discriminated against foráwho they love,ö State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters Friday ináWashington, according toáa transcript onáthe State Departmentĺs website.
ôI would note that Russian citizens are also concerned. I understand that there was aákiss-in outside theáDuma today toáprotest this legislation,ö she said.
Aáclash broke out atáthe kiss-in when self-professed Orthodox activists attacked gay-rights activists ináthe second brawl during aákiss-in protest atáthe same place ináa single week. Police said 20 people were detained Friday.
ôWe are concerned about homophobic sentiment ináRussia andáabout theáfact that LGBT activists have been attacked ináevery region where they have tried toáshow their discontent with theábill,ö said Yulia Gorbunova ofáHuman Rights Watch.
According toáa survey byáLevada Center last year, 32 percent ofáRussians consider homosexuality ôan illness or theáresult ofáa psychological trauma,ö while even more Ś 43 percent Ś believe it is ôimmoral andáa bad habit.ö Only 17 percent consider homosexuality aásexual orientation that can exist alongside heterosexuality.
Theádebate over gay rights came toáthe forefront last year after St. Petersburg legislators passed their law. TheáSt. Petersburg initiative instituted fines foráthe promotion ofáhomosexual relationships among minors, andáit essentially bans gay-pride parades.
Activists forálesbian, gay, bisexual andátransgender people appealed toáthe Supreme Court, which upheld theálaw.
Only 4 percent ofáthe population supports gay-pride parades, while 52 percent opposes them, theáLevada Centerĺs poll found.
ôIn October, theáUN Committee onáHuman Rights recognized aásimilar bill ináthe Ryazan region as discriminatory,ö Gorbunova said. ôWe are concerned that instead ofáadjusting Russian legislation toáinternational norms, our government wants toámake theálaw work onáthe federal level.ö
Ináaddition toáRyazan, Novosibirsk, Arkhangelsk andáKostroma have passed similar laws.
Opponents ofáthe Duma bill say it equates gays toápedophiles. Human rights activists also fear that theávague definitions used ináthe bill would open theádoor toámisuse.
ôThe bill is worded inásuch aáway that many attempts toádiscriminate against theáLGBT community might be camouflaged byáthe words Ĺpropagandaĺ andáĹhomosexuality,ĺö she said.
Just Russia Deputy Ilya Ponomaryov, who refused toávote, said onáTwitter that theábill was poorly written andámight lead toárepressions.
Rights organizations said theábill contradicts international treaties signed byáRussia, such as theáInternational Covenant onáCivil andáPolitical Rights andáthe European Convention onáHuman Rights.
Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said ináDecember that Russia did not need laws that regulate sexual relations.
Toábecome law, theábill must be approved inátwo more readings ináthe Duma, after which it must be considered ináthe Federation Council andásigned byáPresident Vladimir Putin.