Russia is once again cracking down on its LGBTQ community, with lawmakers pushing to further restrict activities seen as promoting gay rights.
On Thursday, lawmakers in Russia’s parliament approved a bill that expands restrictions on “LGBT propaganda” that already exist among minors. It also prohibits the “demonstration” of LGBTQ behavior, prohibits Russians from publicly suggesting that these lifestyles are “normal”, and prohibits all advertisements, media, books and films that are deemed to promote a such “propaganda”.
Violations of the ban would face fines ranging from 100,000 to 2 million rubles ($1,660 to $33,000). Non-residents could be deported from Russia and some cases could result in detention for 15 days before deportation.
The bill is an extension of the “gay propaganda” law passed by the Kremlin nearly a decade ago, banning the promotion of LGBTQ lifestyles aimed at children. The new legislation will travel to the upper house of parliament before being sent to President Vladimir Putin’s office, where he will sign the bill into law.
Last month, Alexander Khinstein, one of the architects of the bill, called LGBTQ lifestyles “an element of hybrid warfare and in this hybrid warfare we have to protect our values, our society and our children.”
Anti-LGBTQ ideas are widely held by Russian officials, who have made same-sex marriages illegal and often speak of a desire to promote “traditional values” in Russia.
In July, the commander of Chechen forces fighting in Ukraine hailed the Russian invasion as a “holy war” against the LGBTQ community.
“We are not under the LGBT flags and as long as [Russian President Vladimir Putin is] alive, we will not be under these flags,” Apti Alaudinov told state television.
Although homosexuality was decriminalized in Russia almost 20 years ago, European watchdog ILGA-Europe ranks the country 46th out of 49 European countries for LGBTQ inclusion.
In 2017, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the original version of the “gay propaganda” law was discriminatory, served “no legitimate public interest” and violated the European Convention on Human Rights.
Political scientist Ekaterina Schulmann told Reuters the bill is also a “huge victory” for Russia’s communications regulator, which she said has already “assumed the powers of a political police”. She said the new bill will further expand Roskomnadzor’s authority and ability to monitor news for LGBTQ resources.
“People – authors, editors, just people – will think twice before even mentioning anything related to [LGBTQ issues]”Schulmann said.