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Russia lawmakers approve bill banning gay 'propaganda'

The Russian State Duma [official website, in Russian] on Tuesday approveda bill that would criminalize the dissemination of materials supporting "non-traditional sexual relations" by a vote of 436-0, with one abstention. There are 450 seats in the lower parliamentary house, and critics believe this is a move towards reinforcing a heteronormative society led by the Russian Orthodox Church [official website]. The bill would impose fines of nearly USD $140 on individuals, and about $31,000 on corporations. It must pass the upper house and be signed into law by President Vladimir Putin, but the bill is not expected to face any hurdles.

Russian lawmakers introduced the bill [JURIST report] in March. The proposed legislation called for fines of up to 500,000 rubles (USD $16,500) for promoting the homosexual lifestyle and appeared to be aimed at media outlets which lawmakers blamed for "promoting gay lifestyles as 'normal behavior.'" The proposal was immediately met with dismay by the UN and human rights groups. Earlier that month the City Hall of St. Petersburg in Russia announced that the city's governor signed into law [JURIST report] a similar bill that would impose fines against people convicted of promoting homosexuality, including gays or lesbians who are open about their sexuality. The St. Petersburg bill was introduced in November 2011 [JURIST report], and sponsors claim it is necessary because homosexual propaganda "threatens" Russia and "sexual deviation" negatively impacts Russian children. Several advocacy groups challenged the bills as discriminatory. In January Human Rights Watch called on authorities to veto [JURIST report] the Moscow legislation, which they called a "discriminatory and dangerous initiative." However, Russian legal scholars asserted that the Russian Constitution 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.

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