The lower house of the Russian parliament, or Duma, voted overwhelmingly today in favor of a ban on so-called “propaganda of homosexualism” where children might be present.
The vote on the bill’s first reading was 338 for (or 336, by another account*), 1 against, with 1 abstention and the remaining 50 or so Duma members not voting.
Next the Committee on Family, Women and Children Matters is responsible for refining the bill, including defining or replacing the odd term “homosexualism.”
Elena Mizulina, the head of the committee, said a task force including a representative of LGBT people will be created to study the issue. The committee reportedly will accept proposed amendments to the bill until May 25.
The bill, known as article 6.13.1, provides for fines of 4,000-5,000 rubles (U.S. $132-$165) for individuals, 40,000-50,000 rubles (US$1,300-$1,600) for officials, and 400,000-500,000 rubles (US$13,200-$16,500) for companies.
Similar laws have been enacted in 10 regions of Russia.
Igor Kochetkov, chairman of the Russian LGBT Network, said, “The State Duma must pass laws that prohibit any discrimination. If the task force is ready to change Bill 6.13.1 so that it no longer contains provisions offending and discriminating against the LGBT community, then we are ready to take part in this team and make our proposals.”
He said an important decision will be the selection of people for the task force:
“It’s important to hear not only the opinion of related parties, but also the opinion of independent human right defenders. We think that apart from people mentioned by Mizulina, the team must have representatives of the Russian Federation ombudsman and human right organizations, who have an experience in defending freedom of expression and the right to exercise the freedom of peaceful assembly.
“Only if these terms are observed, we can talk about considering this bill not on religious or political grounds but from the point of view of human rights and respect for human dignity.”
The bill faces two more readings in the State Duma, after which it must be approved by the upper house (Federation Council) and President Vladimir Putin before it can become law.
If passed, it would mean that across Russia events promoting gay rights would be banned and the organisers fined, the BBC’s Steve Rosenberg reports from Moscow.
Last year, Moscow’s top court upheld a ban on gay pride marches in the Russian capital, effectively prohibiting them for the next 100 years.
The European Court of Human Rights has fined Russia for banning such parades in Moscow.
* In fact, there are great discrepancies in various accounts of the total vote for the bill, but all agree that only one vote was in opposition to the bill.