CLASHES broke out yesterday between supporters and opponents of a draft law banning “homosexual propaganda” outside the Russian Parliament, a few hundred metres from the Kremlin in central Moscow.
Supporters of the bill, some of them holding Russian Orthodox icons and crosses, cheered and threw eggs as police hauled away gay activists, one of whom was splashed with green paint. Police said 20 people had been held.
According to this report, the Russian Parliament backed the draft law in what critics see as a attempt to shore up support for President Vladimir Putin.
Only one deputy in the State Duma lower house voted against the bill, but passions spilled over outside the chamber. The 20 gay activists were detained after scuffles between Russian Orthodox Christians and homosexuals who staged a “kiss-in” protest.
United Russia deputy Dmitry Sablin said before the 388-1 vote in the 450-seat chamber:
We live in Russia, not Sodom and Gomorrah. Russia is a thousands-years-old country founded on its own traditional values – the protection of which is dearer to me than even oil and gas.
But Veteran human rights campaigner Lyudmila Alexeyeva described the draft law as “medieval” and said it was intended to appeal to conservative voters after months of protests that have sapped Putin’s popularity.
It (the Duma) is relying on the ignorance of people who think homosexuality is some sort of distortion.
Putin has drawn closer to the Russian Orthodox Church during in recent months, most markedly during the trial and sentencing this summer of three members of the Pussy Riot punk band over their protest in the country’s main cathedral.
The former KGB spy has blamed gays for failing to help reverse Russia’s population decline, and has increasingly looked for support among conservative constituencies and particularly the Church to offset his falling support.
The Russian Orthodox Church, resurgent since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, has, of course, condemned homosexuality.
Anti-gay propaganda laws are already in place in Arkhangelsk, Novosibirsk and St Petersburg, Putin’s home city, where it was used unsuccessfully to sue American singer Madonna for $10 million for promoting gay love during a concert last year.
The law must be passed in three readings by the lower house, approved by the upper house and then signed by Putin to go into force. It would ban the promotion of gay events across Russia and impose fines of up 500,000 roubles on organisers.
Supporters of the law welcome moves that would allow the banning of gay rights marches. They have been moaning about television and radio programmes which they say show support for gay couples.
Ruling United Russia party deputy, Elena Mizulina, who chairs the Duma’s family issues committee, said:
The spread of gay propaganda among minors violates their rights. Russian society is more conservative so the passing of this law is justified.
But some deputies raised concerns the bill would be misused, asking how it would define homosexuality, and one said the house was meddling in issues beyond its scope. United Russia’s Sergei Kuzin said:
Do you seriously think that you can foster homosexuality via propaganda?
Meanwhile, the Russian military believes it has found a way of detecting unwanted gays in its ranks – by searching intimate nooks and crannies for tattoos. Tats found close to sexual organs and buttocks are possible signs of “sexual deviations,” according to this report.