Russian lawmakers agreed to toughen the country’s discriminatory law against so-called same-sex “propaganda,” moving to ban all Russians from promoting or “praising” homosexual relationships or publicly suggesting that they are “normal.”
Moscow’s lower house of parliament, the State Duma, approved unanimously amendments to strengthen the law against “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations,” making such propaganda illegal among Russians of all ages, according to the parliament’s official website.
The original version of the law adopted in 2013 banned “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” among minors.
“Our bill is not an act of censorship. We are only saying that propaganda, that is, positive promotion, praise, saying that this is normal, and maybe even better than traditional relations, should be banned,” head of the State Duma’s Information Policy Committee, Alexander Khinshtein, said during the parliament session.
The proposed move still has 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 non-traditional relations” is an offense liable a fine of up to 400,000 rubles ($6,500) for individuals and up to 5 million rubles ($81,400) for legal entities.
Foreigners could face up to 15 days in jail or deportation for breaking the law, according to the parliament’s website.
Putin has repeatedly cracked down on same-sex relationships in an effort to uphold what his regime considers traditional family values.
At a speech in Moscow on Thursday, Putin assailed Western culture and told a crowd: “The West can do whatever they want with gay parades but they shouldn’t dictate the same rules for 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 “served no legitimate public interest,” rejecting suggestions that public debate on LGBT issues could influence children to become homosexual, or that it threatened public morals.
“Above all, by adopting such laws the court found that the authorities had reinforced stigma and prejudice and encouraged homophobia, which was incompatible with the values – of equality, pluralism and tolerance – of a democratic society,” the court document said.
Homosexuality was decriminalized in Russia in 1993, but homophobia and discrimination is still rife. It is ranked 46th out of 49 European countries for LGBTQ+ inclusion by watchdog ILGA-Europe.