Pride parade
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Russia: International pressure against anti-gay bill piles on

BY NATASHA BARSOTTI — In the wake of Russian State Duma deputies' overwhelming support for a nationwide anti-gay gag law during first reading, Germany and the European Union have signalled their objections to the measure, saying it contravenes the European Convention on Human Rights, to which Russia is a signatory.

"The implementation of this law could reinforce discrimination against lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transsexuals and intersex people as well as all those who support them and their choices, in particular by limiting their freedom of expression and their freedom of association and assembly," says a statement issued on behalf of Catherine Ashton, high representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and
Security Policy and vice-president of the European Commission. "The High Representative calls on the Russian Federation to uphold its
national and international commitments – in particular in the framework
of the Council of Europe as a signatory to the European Convention on
Human Rights – to protect the enjoyment of these rights by all
individuals."
 

Der Spiegel reports that Germany's foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle, who is openly gay, also condemned the bill during a meeting with the Russian ambassador to Germany, saying it would aggravate relations between Europe and Russia. The report says Westerwelle told Vladimir Grinin that "as a friend of Russia and defender of good relations, he was personally disappointed by the development," adding that "part of democracy is the protection of minorities."

Meanwhile, Coming Out, a queer advocacy organization in St Petersburg, and outloudmag.ru have launched a photo campaign against the bill.

The bill, which is subject to two more readings, would levy fines for violations of up to 5,000 rubles ($165) for
individuals and up to 50,000 rubles for officials, while businesses or
schools could face fines of up to 500,000 rubles ($16,500) if they broke the law. According to Der Spiegel, if
passed, the measure would make gay pride parades a prosecutable
offence. "Even something as simple as waving the rainbow flag (a gay
symbol) could be punishable," the report states, noting that gay rights
activist Nikolai Alexeyev was fined last May
for holding a sign that
said, "Homosexuality isn't perversion" and for flouting a similar law in St
Peterburg.

Venice recently joined another Italian city, Milan, in breaking cultural ties with St Petersburg over its anti-gay law.

The proposed federal bill, introduced by Novosibirsk regional deputies,
mirrors a number of anti-gay gag laws that have been enacted in about 10 other cities or regions. Kaliningrad reportedly passed a similar measure Jan 24.

Bucking the
national trend, the Duma of the Moscow Region rejected a
similar measure meant to make "non-traditional sexual orientation
propaganda to minors" illegal.