European diplomats met with the initiator of the ‘promotion of homosexuality’ bill due to have its second reading in parliament in St Petersburg today.
United Russia deputy Vitaly Milonov brought the bill to the city’s parliament last November, saying: ‘We do not infringe on civil rights and freedoms. We are only talking about propaganda as this information about sexual deviations affects our children.’
But LGBT rights groups around the world have described the bill as deeply homophobic. Campaign group AllOut.com say the bill will ‘make it illegal for any person to write a book, publish an article or speak in public about being gay, lesbian, bi or transgender’. They started a petition which now has over 250,000 signatures.
British Consul General in St Petersburg, Gareth Ward, and an un-named Swedish diplomat led a delegation of European Union diplomats to meet with Milonov yesterday. He is understood to have said that he has ‘very deep religious beliefs’.
St Petersburg’s parliament passed the first reading with a huge 27-1 majority and if it passes it’s second reading the law is in danger of spreading nationwide.
Following the passing of the first reading last November, the US State Department issued a statement saying: ‘We are deeply concerned by proposed local legislation in Russia that would severely restrict freedoms of expression and assembly for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals, and indeed all Russians.’
The Foreign Office in London said: ‘We share the concerns of LGBT organisations and others about the proposed St Petersburg legislation which aims to ban ‘propaganda of homosexuality’ and appears to link issues of sexual orientation with paedophilia’.
The bill’s second reading was postponed by a week, with Russian news agency RIA Novosti suggesting this was because politicians failed to agree on legal definitions. ‘We have decided to double-check all legal definitions related to this bill, ’ Milonov told reporters.
However, gay activists in St. Petersburg thought that the AllOut.org petition’s huge success might have had something to do with the postponement. If the second reading is passed today, activists say they will be protesting on the streets of St Petersburg and take the case to the European Court of Human Rights.
In the last couple of months there have been several protests against similar laws in different parts of Russia: in Kostroma, Moscow and Arkhangelsk.