Russian Duma approves key reading of LGBT ‘propaganda’ bill

MOSCOW (AP) — Russian lawmakers on Wednesday gave crucial second-reading approval to a bill that significantly expands restrictions on activities seen as promoting LGBT rights in the country.

A 2013 law banned what authorities deem to be spreading “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” to minors. The new bill expands that ban to spreading such information to people aged 18 and older.

The bill must pass a third reading on Thursday in the Duma, the lower house of parliament, before going to the upper house and then to President Vladimir Putin and becoming law. But the second reading in the Duma is when major amendments are approved, so Wednesday’s approval presages easy passage.

The new bill outlaws advertising, media and online resources. books, films and theater productions deemed to contain such “propaganda.”

It also broadens the existing restrictions by banning information about gender transitions to be spread to minors.

Violations are punishable by fines and, if committed by non-residents, could lead to their expulsion from Russia.

The fines range from 100,000 to 2 million rubles ($1,660-$33,000). For some violations, foreigners could face 15 days’ detention prior to expulsion.

The bill does not make violations a criminal offense — Russian law stipulates that the criminal code can be amended only through an independent bill. Some lawmakers have suggested they favor such a measure.

Arseny Pastukhov, director of the LGBT Resource Center, said that if the bill becomes law it could severely obstruct his organization’s outreach.

“If we cannot talk about ourselves, about our work, we cannot talk about what kind of help we provide, and accordingly, people cannot find out about it, ” he told The Associated Press. “Some may not even think about it, that such assistance is possible after the adoption of these laws.”

“We assume that we may have to abandon Russian social networks, despite the fact that they are quite convenient for our community … we assume that these social networks will definitely comply with the decisions of the Russian security forces and will block our content. Therefore, we will need to re-invent some kind of strategy,” he said.