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Russia’s lower house passes anti-gay bill as protesters beaten, arrested

A bill that stigmatizes Russia’s gay community and bans the distribution of information about homosexuality to children was overwhelmingly approved by the lower house of parliament Tuesday.

More than two dozen protesters were attacked by anti-gay activists and then detained by police, hours before the State Duma approved the Kremlin-backed legislation in a 436-0 vote, with one abstention.

The bill banning “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations” still needs to be passed by the appointed upper house and signed into law by President Vladimir Putin, but neither step is in doubt.

The measure is part of an effort to promote traditional Russian values as opposed to Western liberalism, which the Kremlin and the Russian Orthodox Church see as corrupting Russian youths and contributing to the protests against Putin’s rule.

The only member of parliament to abstain Tuesday was Ilya Ponomaryov, who has supported the protest movement, to the chagrin of the leadership of his pro-Kremlin party.

Before the vote, gay rights activists attempted to hold a “kissing rally” outside the Duma, located across the street from Red Square in central Moscow, but they were attacked by hundreds of Orthodox Christian activists and members of pro-Kremlin youth groups.

Riot police moved in, detaining more than two dozen protesters, almost all of them gay rights activists. Some who were not detained were beaten by masked men on a central street about a mile away.

The legislation would impose hefty fines for providing information about the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, or LGBT, communities to minors or holding gay pride rallies. Infractions would carry a fine of up to $156 for an individual and up to $31,000 for media organizations.

After the bill was given preliminary approval in January, lawmakers changed the wording of “homosexual propaganda” to “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations,” which backers of the bill defined as “relations not conducive to procreation.”

Russia decriminalized homosexuality in 1993, but anti-gay sentiment remains high. Russia also is considering banning citizens of countries that allow same-sex marriage from adopting Russian children.

Gay rights activists shout slogans Tuesday during a protest against the proposed new legislation. (MAXIM SHEMETOV/REUTERS)

— Associated Press


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