Russian lawmakers agreed to toughen the country’s discrimination law against so-called same-sex “propaganda,” banning all Russians from promoting or “promoting” same-sex relationships or suggesting they are “normal” in public.
Moscow’s lower house of parliament, the State Duma, unanimously approved amendments to strengthen the law against “propaganda of unconventional sexual relations,” outlawing such propaganda among Russians of all ages, according to the parliament’s official website.
The original version of the law passed in 2013 prohibited “propaganda of routine sexual relations” among minors.
“Our bill is not an act of censorship. Propaganda, that is, positive promotion, praise, saying that this is normal and maybe better than traditional relations, we are saying that it should be banned,” said Alexander Khinshtein, head of the State Duma Committee on Information Policy at the parliament session.
The proposed move still needs to pass the Upper House of Parliament, the Federation Council, and be signed into law by Russian President Vladimir Putin to take effect.
Under the bill, “propaganda of unusual relations” is a crime with a fine of 400,000 rubles ($6,500) for individuals and 5 million rubles ($81,400) for legal entities.
Foreigners can face up to 15 days in prison or deportation for breaking the law, according to the parliament’s website.
Putin has repeatedly clamped down on same-sex relationships in an effort to defend what his regime considers traditional family values.
In a speech in Moscow on Thursday, Putin attacked Western culture and told a crowd: “The West can do what they want with gay parades, but they shouldn’t impose the same rules on Russia.”
The European Court of Human Rights ruled in 2017 that Russia’s so-called “gay propaganda law” is discriminatory, promotes homophobia and violates the European Convention on Human Rights.
The court found that the law “did not serve a legitimate public interest,” rejecting suggestions that public discussion of LGBT issues could cause children to become gay or threaten public morality.
“In particular, the court found that by adopting these laws, the authorities reinforced stigma and prejudice and encouraged homophobia, which was incompatible with the values of a democratic society – equality, plurality and tolerance -,” says the court document.
Homosexuality was decriminalized in Russia in 1993, but homophobia and discrimination still abound. The organization ILGA-Europe ranks 46th out of 49 European countries for LGBTQ+ inclusion.