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Russia: Upper house okays anti-gay bills now headed for Putin’s pen

Russian president reiterates claim anti-gay gag law doesn't violate sexual minorities' rights

President Vladimir Putin has warned Western countries against interfering in Russia's domestic affairs. Credit: kremlin.ru

Russia’s upper parliamentary body, the Federation House, followed the example of the State Duma, overwhelmingly approving both an anti-gay gag bill and a measure banning foreign same-sex couples from adopting Russian children.

While 131 senators voted in favour of the adoption bill, 137 gave the nod to the so-called propaganda of homosexuality bill, with one abstention recorded.
The bill will now likely head to President Vladimir Putin to sign into law.

Earlier this month, the State Duma voted 434 to zero, with one abstention, to send the anti-gay gag bill on to the upper house and 443 to zero for the draft law on adoption.

The first measure characterizes propaganda of “non-traditional sexual relations” as “spreading the information in order to form non-traditional sexual desires in children, describing such relations as attractive, promoting the distorted understanding of social equality of traditional and non-traditional relations and also unwanted solicitation of information that could provoke interest to such relations."

The scale of punishment for those who violate the bill's measures varies. Russia Today (RT) notes that individuals can be fined up to 5,000 rubles ($125-156), legal entities up to one million rubles and suspension of their activities, and internet promotion up to 100,000 rubles ($1,550-3,100).

Foreigners found to have flouted the law face the prospect of 15 days in prison and deportation.

RT says that Federation Council speaker Valentina Matvienko stressed in advance of the vote that the bill, which would be enforced nationwide once enacted, does not discriminate against queers, but aims to protect minors.

“Unlike in the Soviet times, people with non-traditional sexual orientation are no longer prosecuted in Russia,” she is quoted as saying. “They are ordinary equal members of the society. As adults, they are entitled to decide how they want to live. But when it comes to minors [the ban] is not someone’s whim, but a demand from the society.”

It’s also a point of view the Russian president has publicly reiterated in reaction to condemnation from gay rights activists in-country and internationally.

Putin, who has warned Western countries against interfering in Russia’s domestic affairs, claims the anti-gay gag bill is not about imposing sanctions on homosexuality and does not violate sexual minorities’ rights.

Rather, it’s about safeguarding the interests of children, he says.

“Some countries . . . think that there is no need to protect children from this. We do. We are not going to interfere. But we are going to provide such protection the way that State Duma lawmakers have decided,” RT quotes Putin as saying.

Answering reporters’ questions at the Russia–European Union summit held in Yekaterinburg in early June, Putin complained about feeling pestered about gay rights questions.

“Wherever I go . . . When I come to Europe they are waving their flags there, I come here – now you start pestering me with this,” he said, according to RT. He also promised then to sign the adoption bill if it were approved by the national parliament.
RT also cites a poll by the Russian Public Opinion Research Center (VCIOM) that found that an overwhelming majority of the population — 88 percent — favour the introduction of a “gay propaganda” ban.