Russia passes anti-gay law, activists detained
By Thomas Grove
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia's lower house passed a law on Tuesday banning gay "propaganda", a measure that human rights groups say has already fuelled attacks on homosexuals as President Vladimir Putin pursues an increasingly conservative social agenda.
As parliament debated the bill, gay activists who had taken part in a "kissing protest" outside parliament to demonstrate against the law were harassed and pelted with eggs by anti-gay protesters, then about 20 of them were arrested.
The law bans the spreading of "propaganda for non-traditional sexual relations" to minors and sets heavy fines for violations. It passed with 436 votes in the 450-seat lower house, the Duma. One deputy abstained and no one voted against.
"Traditional sexual relations are relations between a man and a woman, which ... are a condition for the preservation and development of the multi-ethnic Russian people," lawmaker Yelena Mizulina told the chamber.
"It is precisely these relations that need special protection by the state," she said.
Critics say the bill - a nationwide version of laws already in place in several cities including Putin's hometown of St Petersburg - would in effect ban all gay rights rallies and could be used to prosecute anyone voicing support for homosexuals.
"There is already enough pressure and violence against gays, and with this law it will only continue and probably get worse," said Viktoria Malyasova, 18, standing outside the Duma.
"I may not be gay but I came to stand up for my rights and the rights of other people to love whom they want," she said. Continued...