MOSCOW – The Russian State Duma voted overwhelmingly today in favor of a homophobic bill that would prevent the “propaganda of homosexualism,” the Russian LGBT Network posted on its Facebook page.
This first reading of the bill got only one vote against passage, while one deputy abstained and 52 deputies did not vote. A total of 388 deputies voted for the bill that would discriminate against LGBT Russians.
If passed, those convicted of the law would face fines of up to 500,000 rubles (roughly $16,600), a staggering amount of money for the typical Russian.
Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has criticized the bill, but President Vladimir Putin has remained silent.
Russia is one of the most homophobic places on Earth, and this draconian law will make it a crime to talk about being gay, attend a Pride parade, or gather as an LGBT group.
Similar laws have been approved in 10 regions around Russia, including the very cosmopolitan European city of St. Petersburg.
Madonna was charged in St. Petersburg last year after she “promoted LGBT rights” at her concert there, but a judge later dropped the case.
The bill now goes to the Committee on Family, Women and Children Matters, which is tasked to refine the bill taking in account all amendments received and initiate the second reading by the Russian State Duma.
The Duma decision states that the responsible Committee should accept the amendments that determine the "homosexualism" term description or to replace it with another term which can be found in the Russian legislation and to specify the set of elements of this administrative offense. The amendments will be accepted for consideration till May 25, Russian LGBT Network reports.
Elena Mizulina, the head of the Committee for Family Matters, said a representative from LGBT community will be included on her team.
Igor Kochetkov, the chairman of the LGBT network, stated:
"The State Duma must pass the laws that prohibit any discrimination. If the task team, Mizulina said about, is ready to change the bill 6.13.1 so that it no more contains provisions offending and discriminating LGBT community, than we are ready to take part in this team and make our proposals. Another question is who will be in this team. It's important to hear not only an opinion of related parties but also an opinion of independent human right defenders. We think that apart from people mentioned by Mizulina, there must be representatives of Russian Federation ombudsman and human right organizations, who have an experience in defending the freedom of expression and right to exercise the freedom of peaceful assembly, in this team. Only if these terms are observed, we can talk about considering this bill not on religious or political grounds but from human right and respect for human dignity point of view.”
Russia decriminalized homosexuality in 1993, but the society continues to make life difficult for LGBT Russians.
Ken Williams is Editor in Chief of SDGLN. He can be reached at email@example.com, @KenSanDiego on Twitter, or by calling toll-free to 888-442-9639, ext. 713.