‘Gay propaganda’ law none of US business – Russian FM official

First sanctioned rally in support of sexual minorities' rights (RIA Novosti)
Moscow has expressed its perplexity over the US attempts to interfere in Russia’s lawmaking process after America voiced its criticism about St. Petersburg legislation that outlaws so-called “gay propaganda”.

Konstantin Dolgov, the Russian Foreign Ministry's Commissioner for Human Rights, Democracy and the Rule of Law, called comments by the US State Department “incorrect”.

“We are perplexed by the American side’s attempts to interfere in the legislative process in Russia, especially publicly. We consider these attempts inappropriate and inconsistent with the practice of interstate relations," he said, as cited by Interfax. Dolgov pointed out that Russia is ready to build up “a constructive dialogue” with the US on human rights problems based on mutual respect.

The Foreign Ministry official noted that under the Russian law, no discrimination – including sexual-orientation related – is acceptable. Dolgov stressed that all Russian citizens – despite their race, gender, religious and other beliefs – are guaranteed rights protection by the state.

On November 16, St. Petersburg’s Legislative Assembly approved in the first reading a draft law imposing fines for propaganda of “gay, lesbianism, bisexualism and transgenderism, to minors” as well as for the “propaganda of pedophilia”.

Commenting on the initiative, Dolgov said that it lies within the authority of regional administration and is aimed at protecting children from that kind of propaganda. He pointed out that culture and moral values traditional for Russian society, as well as the unacceptability of discrimination of rights of one social group by the encouragement of others, were taken into consideration.

Under the bill – which was sponsored by the ruling United Russia party – gay propaganda would be punished with a fine from 1,000 rubles ($32) to 3,000 rubles (about $100) for individuals. Companies would have to pay from 10,000 to 50,000 rubles ($1,630). The same punishment would be applied to those promoting pedophilia. Earlier, similar laws were approved in two other Russian regions.

The draft sparked bitter criticism from rights activists and representatives of sexual minority groups.

Last week, the United States expressed its concern over the proposed legislation "that would severely restrict freedoms of expression and assembly for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals, and indeed all Russians."

The St. Petersburg draft is still to be adopted in the second and third readings, to be later passed into law. Last week, though the bill’s second reading was postponed as lawmakers failed to agree on some legal definitions as well as the amounts of the fines.