Russia backs ban on gay couples kissing in public

1:09am January 26, 2013
January 26, 2013:A gay rights "kiss-in" protest has ended in violence as the Russian parliament backs a draft law banning "homosexual propaganda".

Russia's parliament has given initial backing to a controversial bill banning homosexual "propaganda" among minors that could lead to gays being fined for demonstrating or kissing in public.

The vote on the first reading was to be held only hours after at least 20 mostly young opponents of the bill were detained by riot police during a "kiss-in protest" outside the State Duma lower house building.

In the first of three readings, the Duma backed the measure with 388 votes in favour, one against and one abstention after a brief debate.

The strict measure is based on local laws passed in President Vladimir Putin's native city of Saint Petersburg and in several other Russian regions.

The push to agree the law on a federal level has dismayed rights activists who see the legislation in the latest in a sequence of repressive legislation against civil society to be debated by parliament.

But the Duma's family affairs committee chair Yelena Mizulina said she backed a nationwide law that "protected minors from the consequences of homosexuality."

"The unbridled propaganda of homosexuality anywhere you look effectively limits the child's right to free development," said Mizulina in televised comments to journalists ahead of the bill reading.

Her comments came moments after a group of opponents held a prolonged and proud embraces with same-sex partners in open defiance of the bill. It was their third such action outside the Duma in a week and once again ended with police action.

Witnesses said officers detained 20 supporters and opponents of the bill as small scuffles broke outside the parliament building.

Homosexuality was only decriminalised in Russia after the end of the Soviet era and top officials continue to express homophobic views in public.

Russia's leaders repeatedly refer to gays in official language as "people of a non-traditional sexual orientation".

The Moscow authorities have roughly suppressed attempts to stage gay rights parades over the past seven years. A 2010 survey by the Levada Centre found that 74 per cent of respondents thought homosexuality was either "immoral" or "mentally deficient".

© AAP 2014
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