St. Petersburg Passes ’Anti-Gay’ Bill, Could Ban Gay Events

by Jason St. Amand

National News Editor

Thursday February 9, 2012

St. Petersburg, Russia, officials recently passed a bill that could take away some of its LGBT citizens' rights by now fining individuals up to $16,700 for the "promotion homosexuality,"All Out, a LGBT advocacy group, reported.

A number of gay rights activists against the bill protested outside the city's parliament building but were arrested.

If the city's mayor approves the law, reading, writing, speaking and reporting anything connected to the LGBT community will become illegal and subjected to the hefty fine. LGBT related events such as gay pride parades will be banned as well.

"This bill, which would violate Russia's own constitution as well as any number of international treaties, is an outrageous attack on the freedom of expression for all Russians - straight and gay. It must not be allowed to stand," said Andre Banks, executive director.

Additionally, St. Petersburg's gay rights organizations could be heavily fined for spreading "homosexual propaganda."

"This law would legalize discrimination against gays and lesbians in Russia," the St. Petersburg LGBT organization ComingOut said in a statement. "The history of Europe shows that all totalitarian regimes here began with similar repression of LGBT people. If this law is allowed to pass, it could signal that Russia is sliding towards a new totalitarianism."

The bill was first introduced in 2011 and received criticism from LGBT rights groups and activists. All Out created an online petition condemning the law and more than 250,000 people from around the world signed it in support of All Out. The European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs caught wind of the petition and claimed it would to talk about the issue with Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

A similar law was passed in the country's southern region of Astrakhan, which makes LGBT events and demonstrations illegal. Last month, three Russian LGBT activists were arrested in the area under the controversial law, EDGE reported.

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