Russia's lower house of parliament, the Duma, voted on Tuesday to pass a measure banning the distribution of "propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations" to anyone under the age of 18, which, in reality, criminalizes any kind of media or event that acknowledges the existence of gay people, supports gay rights or compares gay relationships to straight relationships.
More on the bill from the Guardian:
Russia's anti-gay law, whose text was softened to remove explicit referrals to "homosexual propaganda", introduces fines of up to 100,000 roubles (£1,975) for individuals who have used the media or internet to promote "non-traditional relations". Organisations can be fined up to 1m roubles and closed down for up to 90 days.
The bill, which must be signed by Putin to become law, also says foreigners can be detained for up to 15 days and deported, as well as fined up to 100,000 roubles, for breaking the law.
A gay rights demonstration against the bill ended in violence on Tuesday, after hundreds of Orthodox and pro-Kremlin demonstrators attacked gay rights advocates outside parliament. Anti-gay demonstrators chanted “Russia is not Sodom," while throwing rotten eggs at and assaulting gay protestors.
Activists have blamed escalating anti-gay violence, like the recent murder of a 23-year-old gay man, on state-sanctioned discrimination, as Salon has previously noted:
Gay rights activists in the country have blamed Vladimir Putin, the country’s political leadership and a growing body of anti-gay legislation for sanctioning discrimination against gays and lesbians and, in effect, condoning violence against them: “I am wondering whether those State Duma deputies who… are now adopting a law against homosexual propaganda realize that these beer bottles have essentially been planted by them?” Russian film critic Alexander Timofeevsky wrote on Facebook, in reference to a report that the victim had been sexually assaulted with beer bottles.
Nikolai Alexeyev, head of activist group Gay Russia also believes that growing influence from the Orthodox Church and recent legislation are fueling homophobia and violence toward gays and lesbians, as he told AFP: “Homophobic hysteria is being increasingly promoted in Russia.”
Lyudmila Alexeyeva, one of Russia's most prominent rights activists, called the ban "a step toward the Middle Ages."
"In normal countries, no one persecutes representatives of sexual minorities," Alexeyeva told the Interfax news agency. "A modern person knows that these people are different from the rest just like a brunette is different from a blonde. They are not guilty of anything."
The "gay propaganda" ban now moves to a vote of the upper house, where it is expected to pass.