An anti-gay bill which had been delayed twice is going to a first hearing in the Russian State Duma today, as protests turn to violence.

Russia Today reports that around 20 people have been detained after clashes between gay rights activists and Orthodox Christian opponents outside the Duma, where the bill is being heard officially for the first time.

The two groups faced off, shouting slogans like “Moscow is not Sodom”  and “Moscow is not Iran”, before attacking each other with paint and tear gas.

The draft bill proposes to set a hefty fine of up to $16,000 (£10,400) on those deemed to be spreading “homosexual propaganda”. It would nationally implement laws similar to those which are already in place in cities such as St Petersburg.

The Russian LGBT community has strongly opposed the law, but have faced backlash from anti-gay protesters. 

After the bill was delayed twice, politicians suggested a pro-gay conspiracy was responsible.

Yelena Mizulina, head of the parliamentary committee for family affairs, said work would now begin on making amendments to the bill and that it should go to a second and third hearing by July.

She added that she hoped that members of the gay community would be part of preparations for the second hearing.

Gay rights campaigner and journalist Yelena Kostyuchenko told the Associated Press: “The law absolutely does not define what gay propaganda is and the reasons are understandable because gay propaganda does not exist.

“In that respect, any information on, as the law puts it, ‘equal values of traditional and unorthodox marital relations’ is considered ‘gay propaganda’.”

Russian Prime Minister, Dmitry Medvedev, recently deemed the draft law as irrelevant, stating in response to a question on the ‘propaganda’ ban that “Not every moral issue, behavioural habit or communication issue between people should be regulated. This is why not all relationships between people are subject to legal interpretation”.

International gay rights campaigners All Out have decried the decision is a press statement, saying : “This draft law is one of the most blatant of the attacks on civil rights for Russian citizens in recent months. The crackdown has extended across all forms of civil liberties, including freedom of speech and expression.

“Personal freedom of all kinds are under a gruelling attack in Russia”, said Andre Banks, executive director and co-founder of All Out.

“Draft law 6.13.1 is a clear case of using a minority as the smokescreen for a bigger agenda of silencing dissent. Should Russian parliamentarians pass this law, we can expect to see an even greater rise in attacks against people who have committed no crime other than being true to themselves.”

All Out have arranged flash mobs in 11 different Russian embassies to protest the law worldwide.