Russian lawmakers in the city of St. Petersburg on Wednesday overwhelmingly approved an initial reading of a bill that would impose fines against people convicted of promoting homosexuality, including gays or lesbians who are open about their sexuality. The legislation, which was supported by the ruling United Russia party [AFP report], would ban gay pride parades, and any activity in public which could influence children and that could be viewed as promoting a gay, lesbian, transgender or LGBT lifestyle. Individuals convicted under the law would be subject to fines between 3,000 and 5,000 rubles ($100-$160 USD) [Moscow Times report], while organizations could be fined up to 50,000 rubles for "promoting" homosexuality. Sponsors of the bill claim it is necessary because homosexual propaganda "threatens" Russia [RIA Novosti report] and that "sexual deviation" negatively impacts Russian children. Valentina Matviyenko, speaker of the upper house of the Russian Parliament [official website, in Russian] and former governor of St. Petersburg, noted his support for the measure and indicated that a similar national ban should be considered. Russian gay rights supporters condemned the bill as an attempt to politicize the issue and bolster political support for the United Russia party in St. Petersburg among the uneducated population. They condemned the bill as being unprofessional, due to the presence of numerous spelling errors, and excessively regressive. According to legal scholars, the Russian Constitution [text] may allow limitations to be placed on the rights of homosexuals due to the constitutional ability to balance the interests of society and limit rights of a social group if they infringe upon the rights of another social group. Before it can be enacted, the legislation must survive two more readings, although approval of the bill is ultimately expected.
Russia has long struggled with the acceptance of homosexuality. In 2008, several Russian gay rights activists were arrested [JURIST report] by police in Moscow for holding events commemorating the 1993 law that put an end to government prosecution for homosexual activity in Russia. It was the third consecutive year Moscow Pride held events around the city to elude officials attempting to enforce a local ban on gay pride parades [JURIST report] that was put in place due to fears of violence. The UN has attempted to pass resolutions aimed at ending sexuality discrimination worldwide, but has faced difficulty passing resolutions on gay rights issues, due to no international consensus on the morality of homosexuality. In June, UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) [official website] passed the "Human rights, sexual orientation and gender identity" resolution [text, PDF], which is the first resolution to call for an end to sexuality discrimination worldwide [JURIST report] and to recognize it as a "priority" for the UN. Last year, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon [official website] called for countries around the world to abolish laws discriminating against gay and lesbian individuals [JURIST report]. Two years ago, the UN passed a gay rights declaration [text, PDF], which the US signed and sponsored [JURIST report]. The declaration, a nonbinding measure that does not have the full force of a resolution, called on states to end criminalization and persecution of homosexuals. This declaration was recalled by the new resolution. Although 85 countries signed the declaration [US Ambassador statement], 57 countries, primarily in Africa and the Middle East, signed an opposing statement. The year before, the UN General Assembly [official website] was divided over the issue of decriminalizing homosexuality [JURIST report] as 66 nations signed a statement calling for decriminalization, and nearly 60 nations signed an opposing statement.