Nikolai Alekseev (also spelled
Alexeyev), Russia's most outspoken gay rights activist, has decried
an anti-gay bill as a “disgrace,” the AP reported.
The bill, overwhelmingly approved
Wednesday by lawmakers in St. Petersburg, Russia's second largest
city, would criminalize “public actions aimed at propaganda of
pederasty, lesbianism, bisexuality and transgenderism among minors.”
The proposed legislation won't become
law until it passes three required readings, but its strong showing
in its first outing – one lawmaker voted against it and another
wasn't present – suggests there is little that could stop it from
Offenders face a fine of up to $1,600
under the bill proposed by the dominant United Russia party.
Alekseev said the measure would be used
to hem in gay rights demonstrations.
“It theoretically allows the ban of
anything anywhere where kids could be present,” he told The
Associated Press. The bill would become “the main legal reason
to deny any public actions by the LGBT community.”
The bill's backer, Vitaly Milonov, said
in a statement that it was intended to “stop the flow of immoral
information that pours over children and young people.”
Although homosexuality was
decriminalized in 1993, anti-gay sentiment in Russia remains high.
Banned gay pride parades and marches in Moscow have received the
lion's share of media coverage, but officials have also cracked down
on other events, including gay film festivals.