Russian politicians passed an anti-gay propaganda bill today by an overwhelming 388-1 vote, setting the stage for that country to debate exactly what constitutes gay propaganda.
If the law comes into effect after further debates it would result in fines of $16,500 for organizers of gay events down to about $165 for participants.
“We live in Russia, not Sodom and Gomorrah,” United Russia lawmaker Dmitry Sablin said, according to Reuters.
Russia is “founded on its own traditional values – the protection of which is dearer to me than even oil and gas,” he added.
The law needs two more readings in the Duma, to pass the upper house and for President Vladimir Putin to sign it into law before taking effect. Additional debates are likely this spring.
The debate today sparked more protests and clashes outside, The Los Angeles Times reported.
Police dragged away about 20 protesters who clashed with supporters in the deeply conservative country.
Some demonstrating against the law had eggs or paint thrown at them. Similar protests occurred earlier in the week.
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“This law insults me as a gay person and my same-sex family, too,” journalist and activist Yelena Kostyuchenko told the LA Times.
“I won’t be able to talk freely on the topic and I won’t be able to write on the topic either without exposing my paper to ridiculously huge fines.”
Russia decriminalized homosexuality 20 years ago, but the LGBT community remains fearful of persecution.
Many Russian cities have adopted similar laws restricting “homosexual propaganda” because it might be seen by minors.
“This propaganda goes through the mass media and public events that propagate homosexuality as normal behavior,” says the bill, according to the Guardian.
The United States government issued a rebuke, according to Reuters, calling on Russia “to meet its obligations to protect its citizens’ rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression without discrimination.”