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January 19, 2016

Russian parliamentary committee opposes anti-gay bill

Members of a Russian Duma committee on Monday expressed their opposition to a bill that critics contend would effectively ban gays and lesbians from coming out.

Members of a Russian Duma committee on Monday expressed their opposition to a bill that critics contend would effectively ban gays and lesbians from coming out.

The State Duma Committee on Constitutional Legislation’s position comes ahead of an expected vote on the measure this week.

Ivan Nikitchuk and Nikolai Arefyev, who are members of the Russian Communist Party, last October introduced the bill.

Authorities would fine people who engage in “public expression of unconventional sexual relationships” between 4,000 – 5,000 rubles ($50.44 – $63.05). Those found guilty of violating the proposed statute “in institutions that provide educational, cultural or youth services” would face the same penalty and 15 days in jail.

Russian LGBT rights advocates with whom the Washington Blade spoke on Monday welcomed the committee’s position against the bill.

“We believe that it is a good sign,” said Svetlana Zakharova of the Russian LGBT Network.

Yury Gavrikov, chair of St. Petersburg Pride, told the Blade that Nikitchuk and Arefyev introduced the measure as a way to build support for the Russian Communist Party ahead of this year’s parliamentary elections.

“Everyone know that the gay issue is very popular way to force religious and conservative people,” said Gavrikov.

President Vladimir Putin in 2013 signed a controversial law that bans the promotion of so-called gay propaganda to minors. The international outcry over the statute overshadowed the 2014 Winter Olympics that took place in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi.

“We remain concerned by the treatment of LGBT persons in Russia, including a 2013 law that outlaws so-called LGBT ‘propaganda.’” A State Department spokesperson told the Blade after Nitichuk and Arefyev introduced their bill. “We fundamentally disagree with the idea that anyone needs protection from LGBT individuals or from those advocating for the human rights of LGBT individuals.”

Izvestia, a Russian newspaper, last November reported Special U.S. Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons Randy Berry and other American officials ordered Nikolai Alexeyev, a prominent LGBT rights advocate who founded GayRussia.ru, to discredit Putin allies by claiming they are gay. 

The U.S. Embassy in Moscow posted to its social media pages a “fake” letter that Berry reportedly wrote to Alexeyev on which the newspaper based its report.

washingtonblade.com

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