Russian lawmakers approve bill banning LGBTQ ‘propaganda’

Russian lawmakers on Thursday unanimously approved a bill in a final reading that would ban all forms of LGBTQ “propaganda” as Moscow presses ahead with its conservative course at home while its troops fight in Ukraine.

The law, passed by the lower house of parliament, the Duma, bans any mention of what the authorities consider “gay propaganda” in the media, cinema, books and advertising.

It also prohibits “the propaganda of pedophilia and sex reassignment”.

If approved by the upper house of parliament and signed into law by President Vladimir Putin, rights groups say it will effectively ban all public advertising for LGBTQ people in Russia.

Moscow already has a law against “propaganda” directed at minors regarding LGBTQ relationships. The new law would extend this rule to adults.

“Any propaganda for non-traditional relations will have consequences,” Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin said on social media.

He said the bill will “protect our children and our country’s future from the darkness being cast by US and European states.”

Russia has sought to portray LGBTQ relationships as a product of dangerous Western influences, and that rhetoric is intensifying as its clash with the West over Ukraine deepens.

The head of LGBTQ rights group Sfera, Dilya Gafurova, said it was particularly “troubling that the state is saying LGBT+ people are a Western invention”.

She warned of the potential impact of “demonizing an entire group.”

The bill provides for hefty fines of up to 10 million rubles ($165,400) for violators of the new ban.

Authorities can block websites that contain prohibited information.

It would also ban “the sale of goods (including foreign goods) containing prohibited information,” according to the Duma website.

For years, Putin has presented himself as the antithesis of Western liberal values.

That rhetoric has only intensified since he dispatched troops to Ukraine on February 24, isolating Moscow and leading to an unprecedented crackdown at home.

– Can’t take our vote away –

Russian film production companies and book publishers have expressed concern about the law, saying it could lead to a ban on some Russian classics, such as Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita.

The Duma said, “Films that promote such relationships do not receive a distribution certificate”.

Senior lawmakers had previously said the bill was needed in the context of Russia’s offensive in Ukraine.

Activist Dilya Gafurova urged the authorities not to use the LGBTQ community “as a tool of ideological confrontation.”

“It’s just us. There is nothing wrong with us and nothing that needs to be covered up,” she said, adding that “taking our voice away” is impossible.

Putin, who turned 70 this year and has spent his tenure promoting what he calls “traditional values,” railed against same-sex parents in September.

“Here, in our country, in Russia, do we really want ‘number one parents’, ‘number two parents’ or ‘number three parents’ instead of ‘mom’ and ‘dad’?” he said in a speech at the Kremlin in September .

“Have you gone completely insane?” he asked.