The Russian State Duma Thursday approved a bill prohibiting “LGBTQ propaganda.” The bill passed the Russian Federal Assembly’s lower house in a unanimous roll-call of 397 votes to zero. The legislation will now pass to the upper house, before going to the Kremlin for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s signature.
The new legislation seeks to drastically expand similar legislation adopted in Russia in 2013. Called the “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations among minors” law, the 2013 legislation prohibited the dissemination of LGBTQ information to minors. However, the new bill extends this prohibition to all age categories.
The law effectively prohibits the positive promotion of LGBTQ issues and public displays of non-heterosexual relationships. For violating the law, individuals can face fines of up to 400,000 rubles. Public officials can face fines of up to 800,000 rubles. Corporate entities can face fines of up to 5 million rubles and have their activities suspended by the state.
Chairman of the State Duma Viacheslav Volodin stated during the plenary session of the first reading:
We have traditions, a conscience, an understanding that we need to think about children, families, the country, and preserve what our parents have passed on to us. We must do everything to protect our children and those who want to live a normal life. Everything else is sin, sodomy, darkness, and our country is fighting this.
After the bill was passed, the Equal Rights Coalition–an intergovernmental organization comprised of 42 member states dedicated to protecting the rights of LGBTQ people–expressed concern that “these extensions of the so-called anti-propaganda law mean that any act or public mention of same-sex couples is functionally criminalized.” Last month, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk expressed deep concerns about how the law “infringes even further on international human rights norms and standards.”
On Wednesday, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken criticized the law as “another serious blow to freedom of expression and the human rights of LGBTQI+ persons in Russia.” In response, Volodin called the law Russia’s “answer to Blinken.”