St. Petersburg Gov’t OKs Anti-Gay Law

by Jason St. Amand

National News Editor

Friday March 2, 2012

Earlier this week, the St. Petersburg, Russia, legislative assembly passed a law that takes away some of the city's LGBT citizens' rights, the Moscow Times reported.

The "homosexual propaganda" law will fine individuals up to $16,000 for the "promotion of homosexuality" and "pedophilia among minors." Those against the bill say that it will ban gay pride parades and other public events related to important LGBT issues.

A similar law was passed in Russia's southern region of Astrakhan, which bans LGBT events and demonstrations. In January, three Russian gay rights activists were arrested in the region because of the controversial legislation. In addition, Ryazan and Kostroma, located in the country's central region, have also passed a "homosexual propaganda" law.

The law defines "homosexual propaganda" as "the targeted and uncontrolled dissemination of generally accessible information capable of harming the health and moral and spiritual development of minors," that could create "a distorted impression" of "marital relations."

The New York Times noted that Vitaly V. Milonov, who helped draft the law, has called gays "perverts" and claims gay rights activists have tried to convert Russia's children with support from Western governments.

"This is a declaration of Russia's moral sovereignty," Milonov told the media after Wednesday's legislative session.

A leading LGBT rights group in St. Petersburg was critical of the anti-gay law. ComingOut said that gay organizations could be heavily fined for spreading "homosexual propaganda" as well.

"This law would legalize discrimination against gays and lesbians in Russia," the group 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 head of the Russian LGBT Network, Igor Kochetkov, also slammed the legislation.

"You can also adopt a law against turning off the light of the sun, but no one has the ability to do this," Kochetkov said. "Even if someone wanted to, no amount of propaganda is going to turn a heterosexual gay."

"This is a law that can be used, and will be used, to conduct searches of organizations and prevent public actions," he added. "Most importantly, it will be used for official propaganda. Officially homosexuality will be considered illegal, something incorrect and something that cannot be discussed with children. It will create a negative atmosphere in society around gays and lesbians as well as our organizations."

The bill was introduced in 2011 and received criticism from LGBT supporters across the world. All Out, a LGBT advocacy group, created an online petition condemning the law and more than 250,000 people signed it.

Russia does not recognize same-sex relationships but does allow gays to openly serve in the military. In addition, transgender people can legally change their gender after receiving the proper operations.