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Russian 'Gay Propaganda' Bill Passes First Reading Amid Scuffles Outside Duma


Gay-Rights Activists Scuffle With Police Outside Duma
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Scuffles broke out between gay-rights supporters holding a "kiss-in" protest and opponents outside the State Duma as deputies were set to debate a new law against disseminating "homosexual propaganda" to minors on January 25. At least 20 people demonstrating in support of gay rights were detained. (RFE/RL's Russian Service)

MOSCOW -- Russia's State Duma has passed the first reading of a bill that would impose large administrative fines for spreading so-called homosexual propaganda to minors.

The vote on January 25 was 388 in favor, with one against and one abstention.

Earlier on the same day, at least 20 people demonstrating in support of rights for homosexuals were detained as scuffles between supporters and opponents of the bill broke out outside the parliament building.

The federal bill would outlaw gay parades and proposes fines of up to 5,000 rubles ($165) for individuals violating the measure. Companies would incur fines of up to 500,000 rubles ($165,000).

In the Duma, Dmitry Sablin of the ruling United Russia party backed the need for the proposed legislation.

"Look at the statistics among our young people," he said. "Already 30 percent of children have a more or less positive attitude toward [homosexuality]. We live in Russia after all; not Sodom and Gomorrah. I think Russia is a 1,000-year-old country founded on certain traditional values and defending our own values is even more important than oil or gas."

In Washington, the Obama administration said the United States was "deeply concerned" over the legislation.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the legislation will “severely” restrict freedom of expression and assembly for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals, and “indeed for all Russians.”

She called on Russia to meet its international obligations to protect its citizens' democratic rights, without discrimination

Protest Clashes

As Duma deputies headed into their debate, supporters of the bill assaulted rights campaigners.

"Novaya gazeta" correspondent and gay-rights activist Yelena Kostyuchenko was among those protesting outside the Duma building.

"There were also some fascists who came to the Duma," she said. "Some of them threw eggs at us, others chanted prayers. They poured 'zelyonka' ['brilliant green,' a common antiseptic that is hard to wash off] on us. They tried to attack us several times."

PHOTO GALLERY: Gay-rights protesters were assaulted during their protest outside the Duma on January 25:

Kostyuchenko pointed out that none of the antihomosexual protesters were taken into custody.

"The police were, of course, clearly on the State Duma's side," she said. "In our police van, there are only LGBT activists and their friends, people who were protesting the bill. There aren't any fascists or so-called Orthodox activists among us here."

'Without This Kind Of Influence'

United Russia's parliamentary faction leader, Vladimir Vasilyev, supports the proposed law.

"I think the Duma will pass this decision today in order to restrict -- by means of fines -- propaganda of homosexuality among minors," he said. "I stress, among minors. We want our young generation to grow up without this kind of influence."

To become law, the bill must pass two more readings in the lower house, win approval from the Federation Council, and be signed by President Vladimir Putin.

Amnesty International criticized the proposed law as "an attack on the right to freedom of expression."

In a statement issued on January 25, David Diaz-Jogeix, Amnesty's Europe and Central Asia program deputy director said the legislation could be interpreted very loosely and also "further stigmatizes and alienates" homosexual people.

With reporting by ITAR-TASS and Interfax

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