Russian gay rights activists detained as MPs vote for 'propaganda' bill
Campaigners detained after clashes with Orthodox Christian activists as MPs back ban on 'homosexual propaganda'
Associated Press in Moscow; guardian.co.uk, Friday 25 January 2013 16.05 GMTt
Russian police have detained 20 gay rights campaigners and militant Orthodox Christian activists near parliament as politicians overwhelmingly backed a bill that would ban "homosexual propaganda".
Russia's State Duma, the lower house of parliament, voted 388-1-1 for the law that makes public events and the dissemination of information on the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, or LGBT, community to minors punishable by fines of up to $16,000 (£10,000). After two more readings, the bill will have to be signed by President Vladimir Putin.
Earlier on Friday three dozen LGBT rights campaigners had gathered near the State Duma to protest against the law when militant Orthodox activists started assaulting and pelting them with eggs. Police intervened, but mostly detained the LGBT campaigners.
At a similar rally on Tuesday Orthodox activists violently assaulted LGBT campaigners, who had gathered to kiss each other in protest against the planned legislation.
Russia decriminalised homosexuality in 1993, but homophobia remains high in the country. Authorities often ban gay rallies and parades.
Those behind the bill say minors need to be protected from "homosexual propaganda" because they are unable to evaluate the information critically.
"This propaganda goes through the mass media and public events that propagate homosexuality as normal behaviour," the bill reads.
It has been hailed by public figures and Russia's dominant Orthodox church. It is widely seen as part of an official drive to promote traditional Russian values as opposed to western liberalism, which the Kremlin and church see as corrupting youth and by extension contributing to a wave of protest against Putin's rule.
Some politicians and public figures have accused gay people of contributing to the fall in Russia's already low birth rates, and have argued that they should be barred from government jobs, undergo forced medical treatment or be exiled.
An executive with a government-run television network said on a nationally televised talkshow that gay people should be prohibited from donating blood, sperm and organs for transplants, and that their hearts should be burned or buried after death.
According to opinion polls last year by the respected Levada Centre, almost two-thirds of Russians find homosexuality "morally unacceptable and worth condemning". About half were found to be against gay rallies and same-sex marriage, while almost a third thought homosexuality was the result of "a sickness or a psychological trauma".