Russian national anti-gay law passes first reading

PinkNews logo on a pink background surrounded by illustrated line drawings of a rainbow, pride flag, unicorn and more.

On Friday, the Russian State Duma adopted the first reading of a homophobic censorship bill which would impose federal sanctions for the promotion of “gay propaganda”.

On Tuesday, the bill was sent back to a preparatory stage, saying it needed further discussion, however it has now passed through its first reading.

Today 388 members voted for the bill, one voted against, and one member chose to abstain. 60 others did not vote.

The Committee on Family, Women and Children Matters has now been tasked with preparing the bill for its second reading.

The draft law, submitted in March 2012, details that the “promotion of homosexuality” among children could warrant fines of 4,000-5,000 rubles (£85-105) for individuals, 40,000-50,000 rubles (£850-1050) for officials, and 400-500,000 (£8,500-10,500) rubles for businesses.

Similar laws have already been passed regionally in ten different areas of Russia, but this bill would impose the law nationwide.

The bill currently stipulates that the police would be able to write up administrative reports for violations of the law, which would then be considered in court.

Proposals for amendments to the bill will be accepted until 25 May, at which point a working group will be formed in order to finalise a full version of it.

According to the head of the Committee for Family Matters, there will be a representative from the LGBT community in the working group.

Some already suggested amendments could be a definition of the words “homosexual” and “propaganda”, or a replacement of these words altogether.

After two more readings, the Russian President will sign the bill into law.

The initial hearing of the bill was previously delayed from December to January after it sparked demonstrations from gay activists who said the bill was needlessly discriminatory and would distract from more serious issues.

In contrasts to the protest, the bill is widely supported by the public. There have been instances of heated counter-protests turning violent, as was the case in Moscow in December and Voronezh on Sunday.

An opinion poll from spring 2012 revealing that 86% of Russians approve of the bill, although only 6% reported having been subject to “homosexual propaganda”.

Following protests against the bill earlier this week, homophobic Russians attacked gay activists in the city of Voronezh.

In October, Russia’s Supreme Court ruled that the country’s second largest city of St Petersburg could continue to enforce its homophobic censorship law.

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.