Russia’s lower courts have passed a bill preventing the spread of “homosexual propaganda” to children, with an overwhelming vote of 436 to 0, with only one abstention.
Approved by the lower house of parliament, the bill will now pass through the appointed upper house and then on to LGBT President Vladimir Putin. Legislators in favor of the legislation wish to promote more “traditional Russian values.”
“Russia is trying very hard to make discrimination look respectable by calling it `tradition,’” Human Rights Watch LGBT program director Graeme Reid said in a press release.
“But whatever term is used in the bill, it remains discrimination and a violation of the basic human rights of LGBT people.”
The Russian Orthodox Church along with the Kremlin views the LGBT community as a contributing force defying President Putin’s rule, as well as corrupting the youth.
With a fine of up to $156 for an individual and $31,000 for media organizations, the legislation bans the LGBT community from conducting pride rallies as well as disseminating information of “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations” to minors.
Before the State Duma passed the legislation, hundreds of Orthodox Christian anti-gay activists assaulted dozens of protestors. Many were holding a “kissing rally” before the authorities detained 24 of them.
Anti-gay protesters recited prayers and shouted, “Lawmakers, protect the people from perverts!”
Although Russia decriminalized homosexuality in 1993, anti-LGBT sentiments still plague the country. Russian legislators have also put forth initiatives to ban foreign LGBT couples from adopting Russian children.
“If such a law is passed by the Parliament of the country, I will sign it,” said Putin during the European Union-Russia summit last week. “I think our legislation is very liberal in this way, and there is no discrimination, none at all.”
Many lawmakers agree that gays should be barred from government jobs and, as a community, are contributing to low birth rates. Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the country does not have any international commitment to “allow propaganda of homosexuality.”
According to a study by the Levada Center, 85 percent of Russians oppose marriage equality, 27 percent believed that homosexuals need treatment, and 5 percent said that gays should be liquidated.
The European Council has pleaded with Russia to change the trajectory of LGBT rights in the country.
“Russian authorities have an obligation to also protect that LGBT people [so they]can express their views and entertain demonstrations in order to express their views. This is a fundamental principle in the European Convention on Human Rights,” Council of Europe Secretary-General Thorbjorn Jagland said in a press release.