Russian police break up "kiss-in" over anti-gay law

Fri Jan 25, 2013 7:52am EST
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By Gabriela Baczynska

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Police broke up a "kiss-in" protest by gay activists who scuffled with Russian Orthodox Christians outside parliament on Friday before it considered a law banning the promotion of homosexuality among minors.

Backers say the law will protect children against "homosexual propaganda" in the media and at public events, but critics say President Vladimir Putin hopes it will consolidate support for him following the biggest protests since he won power in 2000.

Police said about 20 people were detained outside the State Duma, the lower house, after minor scuffles broke out between rival groups of supporters and opponents of the law.

The supporters, some of them holding Russian Orthodox icons or crosses, cheered and threw eggs as police hauled away protesters who started kissing. One gay activist was splashed with green paint, witnesses said.

If approved by the two houses of parliament, and signed by Putin, the law would ban the promotion of gay events across Russia and impose fines on the organizers.

But the law has widened rifts in a country already divided by a year of rallies against Putin which, although they have dwindled in the last few months, have undermined his image as a leader who can unite and protect all Russians.

Putin's critics say the law is the latest in a series of legislative moves intended to crack down on the opposition or appeal to traditional Russian values to boost the former KGB spy's ratings.

Public approval for Putin, who is now 60, stood in January at 62 percent, the lowest level since June 2000, an independent pollster said on Thursday.   Continued...

Interior Ministry officers detain gay rights activists for taking part in an unsanctioned protest near the Duma, Russia's lower house of Parliament, in Moscow January 25, 2013. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin