Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 7 / 15 February 2018

Russian lawmakers approve federal anti-gay law


Police arrest a Russian LGBT protester outside the Duma in Moscow.
(Photo: Courtesy
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In two readings of Russia's so-called federal gay gag law, members of the Duma unanimously passed the law in its second and third readings June 11.

The overwhelming support of the bill by lawmakers is a continuation of the vote for the bill in January. Members voted on the second reading 436-0 and voted 434-0 in the third reading.

The bill will now go to the Senate for final vote before going to President Vladimir Putin, who is expected to sign the bill into law.

Experts anticipate that the law could go into effect by the end of the month.

The bill is a part of a nationwide crackdown brought about by the influence of the Russian Orthodox church in concert with Putin's rule.

Russian authorities are also targeting nongovernmental organizations, ordering the leaders to register as "foreign agents," a term that suggests spy in Russia.

Members of the Duma also voted on another bill in response to all-girl punk rock band Pussy Riot's protest song against Putin inside a Moscow church last year. The bill also carries stiff fines for disrespecting society and offending "religious feelings of the faithful," according to media reports.

Russian LGBT activists anticipate another bill banning adoptions from countries where same-sex marriage is legal might be passed in the coming weeks.

Ironically, the anti-gay bill, which changed "homosexual propaganda" to "non-traditional" sexuality, would recriminalize homosexuality in Russia 20 years after the fall of communism and the decimalization of it in 1993.

Yet, non-traditional sexuality is vague and not clearly defined in the bill, according to experts.

The bill, which would amend the Code of Administrative Violations, carries stiff fines and jail sentences for LGBT citizens and foreign visitors who violate the ban. The ban applies to disseminating any information about sexual relationships that are not between a man and a woman and providing a "distorted notion of social equivalence of traditional and non-traditional sexual relationships," via media outlets from print to online to youth, according to Human Rights Watch.

Russian citizens will face fines of $123 to $155; government officials $1,235 to $1,550; and organizations $31,000 or a suspension of activity for up to 90 days. Foreigners could face a $3,104 fine along with a 15-day detainment and deportation.

Heavier fines would be imposed for the same actions using mass media and telecommunications, including the Internet, according to HRW.

Co-author of the bill Yelena Mizulina, a member of A Just Russia party, which is Kremlin-friendly, told lawmakers, "Traditional sexual relations are relations between a man and a woman. These relations need special protection from the government."

Only one parliament member, Ilya Ponomaryov, abstained from the vote. One other member of parliament, Alexei Mitrofanov, spoke out against the bill during the debate.

"I am, in general, against the concept of this bill," said Mitrofanov during the parliamentary session, reported the Global Post.

Governments, government bodies, and global human rights experts condemned the bill's passage.

"Russia is trying very hard to make discrimination look respectable by calling it 'tradition,' but whatever term is used in the bill, it remains discrimination and a violation of the basic human rights of LGBT people," said Graeme Reid, LGBT rights program director at HRW. "To try to exclude LGBT people as 'non-traditional' is to try and make them less than human. It is cynical, and it is dangerous."

Prior to the vote, Russian authorities arrested an estimated 20 protesters, most LGBT, that hosted a "kiss in" in front of the Kremlin in Moscow. A crowd of about 300 anti-LGBT and Russian Orthodox protesters attacked the small band of LGBT protesters, pelting them with eggs and shouting anti-gay epithets.

Human rights and LGBT rights experts are concerned about the effect the proposed bill is already having in Russia.

Within the past month anti-gay attacks have been on the rise with two anti-gay murders. One man was sentenced to 11 years for murdering a man who made a sexual proposition to him, pointed out HRW.

On May 9, 23-year-old Vladishlav Tornovoy was raped and murdered in Volgograd. Oleg Serdyuk, 39, was murdered on May 29 in Kamchatka. Suspects for these murders have been arrested and detained.

Russian LGBT leader Nikolai Alekseev, who was the target of an anti-gay attack on June 5, threatened to out closeted members of the parliament who are gay and voted against LGBT rights, reported Gay Star News.

In a separate incident, the St. Petersburg-based Side-By-Side Film Festival was found guilty for not being registered as a foreign agent, by Russia Magistrate Oleg Camaldinov.

The organization faces a $16,665 fine, according to a June 7 news release from the organization.

Other charges against the festival group are still being heard in court. The hearings have been postponed until June 19, according to regular updates from representatives of the organization as of press time.

To speak out against the recent actions, contact the Russian Consulate, 2790 Green Street, San Francisco, CA 94123; 415-928-6878; or


Got international LGBT news tips? Call or send them to Heather Cassell at 00+1-415-221-3541, Skype: heather.cassell, or e-mail

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