Violence Breaks Out As Russia’s State Duma Bans LGBT Advocacy
June 11th, 2013
Russia’s State Duma gave its unanimous approval today to a federal law banning “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” among minors. The law prohibits advocating the moral equivalency of gay relationships to straight ones, as well as the distributing of material advocating for gay rights. The Duma vote was 434-0, with one abstention. Similar bans are already in place in several Russian regions and the city of St. Petersburg. The bill now goes on to the Federation Council, Russia’s upper house of Parliament, where passage is expected. As RIA Novosti reported:
There are a total of 450 deputies in the State Duma, and a majority of 226 was needed for the bill to pass.
If the bill is signed into law by Putin, the “promotion of non-traditional sexual relationships” will be punishable by fines from 4,000 ($120) to 5,000 rubles ($160) for individuals, from 40,000 ($1,200) to 50,000 ($1,500) for officials, and from 800,000 ($25,000) to 1 million rubles ($31,000) for organizations.
There will also be tougher fines for promoting such relationships in the media or on the Internet: from 50,000 rubles to 1 million rubles, or even 90 days of arrest for people involved in organizations found guilty of the offense.
Violent clashes broke out between LGBT advocates and Orthodox anti-gay protesters outside the State Duma as the body began considering the bill:
A RIA Novosti reporter at the scene witnessed how the demonstration started peacefully, with a police cordon separating anti-bill LGBT activists from those backing the bill.
When some of the gay couples protesting against the bill to restrict “the promotion of same-sex relationships” started kissing, pro-bill activists responded by hurling eggs and bundles of nettles.
Some anti-bill protesters chanted “Moscow is not Baghdad” (seemingly more of a reference to a generic anti-gay, conservative, religious society, than a specific comment on today’s Iraq) while pro-bill demonstrators shouted: “Moscow is not Sodom.”
…Masha Gessen, a prominent Moscow-based journalist and outspoken defender of gay rights, was one of those taken to a police station. She tweeted that she was detained after a pro-Orthodox Church activist attacked her “physically” but was not detained by riot police.
The gay protesters were far outnumbered by around 200 anti-gay activists who surrounded them, chanting “Russia is not Sodom”, singing Orthodox Christian prayers and crossing themselves. They threw rotten eggs at the gay protesters.
After scuffles in which one man was knocked to the ground and kicked by the anti-gay activists, police began detaining the gay protesters and bundling them into waiting buses.
The State Duma will also consider today another bill which would make “insulting religious believers’ feelings” a criminal offense, punishable with finds of up to $15,000, 200 hours of compulsory labor, or up to three years’ imprisonment.
In February, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that the proposed ban would not infringe on the human rights of LGBT people in Russia:
We’re not discriminating against anyone, we just don’t want reverse discrimination, when one group of citizens gets the right to aggressively impose their values, unsupported by most of the population, especially on children,” Lavrov said in Moscow.
In April, Russian President Vladimir Putin reiterated those sentiments and blamed gay people, in part, for Russia’s declining population.