Legislation that will go to an initial vote in the Russian Parliament later this month could make spreading “homosexual propaganda” a crime punishable by a fine of up to $16,000 across all of Russia.
The Associated Press reports that public acts of open same-sex affection and events promoting or celebrating gay rights could become classified as propaganda under a bill being pushed by the Kremlin and the Russian Orthodox Church, which bans “propaganda of sodomy, lesbianism, bisexuality and transgenderism”, consisting of “mass media and public events that propagate homosexuality as normal behaviour”.
St Petersburg and three other cities already have similar rules on their statute books, but this bill would have national effect, imposing itself on all of Russia’s population of 143,300,000.
The Orthodox Church and the Kremlin have drawn up the bill as part of their efforts to encourage young people to take on Russian values rather than Western liberal ones. Other recent legislation with this aim banned websites and print publications that are deemed “extremist”.
The highest-level fine proposed by the bill would be one thousand times the amount charged to activist Pavel Samburov, who made the news last year after Russian police fined him $16 for kissing his boyfriend at a public protest under the charge of “public hooliganism”.
Mr Samburov, who founded gay rights activist collective the Rainbow Association, says that the bill is part of a crackdown on minorities intended to distract the majority from discontent with Putin’s regime.
The bill is reported to have been accepted or even supported by the majority of the public. Levada polls showed that two thirds of Russians agreed with the statement that homosexuality is “morally unacceptable and worth condemning”, and half of those think it is caused by “a sickness or a psychological trauma”.
However, the Russian Prime Minister, Dmitry Medvedev has said that he doesn’t see any reason why homosexuality should be banned legally in the country, and that it is not an big issue for many Russians.
Public hostility towards LGBT minorities have lead to a number of recent violent spats.On Sunday gay activists in Voronezh were attacked by a larger opposition group. In October several people were injured when anti-gay activists attacked one of Moscow’s few gay clubs; one woman suffered broken glass in her eye.
The violence was condoned by Orthodox priest Sergy Rybko, who the Associated Press reported as saying in support of the club attackers, “Until this scum gets off of Russian land, I fully share the views of those who are trying to purge our motherland of it.
“We either become a tolerant Western state where everything is allowed – and lose our Christianity and moral foundations – or we will be a Christian people who live in our God-protected land in purity and godliness,” he said.
St Petersburg’s anti-gay laws were frequently headline news last year due in part due to Madonnalegal action being brought against pro-gay rights singers including Madonna and Lady Gaga speaking out against the discriminatory law.