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Russian Orthodox Church Backs 'Homosexuality Propaganda' Ban

Activists stage a protest against the law prohibiting the "propaganda of homosexuality" in St. Petersburg in November.
A leading official in the Russian Orthodox Church has called on Russian lawmakers to adopt a national law prohibiting the promotion of homosexuality among minors.

Father Dmitry Pershin, head of the church's youth council, has called for the State Duma to approve "without delay" a law that would make it a crime to promote homosexuality to people younger than 16.

His statement came after the governor of Russia's second-largest city, St. Petersburg, signed into law a new measure calling for fines of up to $33,000 for propagating "homosexuality among minors."

Gay rights activists have protested, saying the law could be used to ban public demonstrations by Russia's embattled gay and transgender community.

Homosexuality was decriminalized in Russia in 1993, but antigay sentiments among many Russians remain strong.

With AP and Interfax reports