Heeding Putin, Russian Duma backs ban on same-sex adoptions
By Steve Gutterman
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian lawmakers passed a bill on Friday barring same-sex foreign couples from adopting Russian children, heeding strong signals of support from President Vladimir Putin and broadening a rift with Western nations over gay rights.
The State Duma, or lower house of parliament, approved the bill by a 444-0 vote in its third and final reading, sending it to the upper chamber, which is also expected to approve it.
Both houses are dominated by the United Russia party, which is loyal to Putin.
In power since 2000, Putin has championed socially conservative values and held up the Russian Orthodox Church as a moral compass since he weathered a wave of protests by mostly urban liberals and started a third Kremlin term last year.
He has rejected U.S. and European criticism of a ban on spreading gay "propaganda" among minors that the Duma passed earlier this month that gay rights activists fear has fuelled attacks on homosexuals.
EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said in a statement on Thursday that the "propaganda" ban could stigmatize gays and cause discrimination, and the United States has said it severely restricts freedom of expression and assembly.
The Duma vote to ban adoptions by same-sex couples from abroad came as German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has criticized Putin over civil rights, met him at a showcase Russian economic forum in St Petersburg.
Germany has also condemned the gay "propaganda" ban and German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, who is gay, said after its passage that attempts to stigmatize same-sex relationships had no place in a democracy. Continued...