MOSCOW, January 25 (RIA Novosti) – The State Duma, Russia's lower house of parliament, overwhelmingly approved in its first reading on Friday a vaguely defined bill that would ban the promotion of “homosexual propaganda.”
Just one deputy voted against the bill and one abstained, while 388 voted for it. Police, meanwhile, arrested 20 people outside the building amid clashes between supporters and opponents of the bill, according to the Interior Ministry's Moscow branch.
While the bill’s proponents argue it is aimed at protecting children from harmful influences, critics allege the move is part of a broader crackdown on Russia’s gay community.
The bill would levy fines for such offenses of up to $16,000 for legal entities, while individuals and officials could face fines of around $160 and $1,600, respectively.
On Tuesday, demonstrations outside the Duma also ended in violent clashes. The legislature was set to consider the bill then, before delaying it until Friday.
Local legislatures in several Russian regions, including St. Petersburg and Novosibirsk, have already passed a similar law.
Russia has come under international criticism, including from the European Court of Human Rights, for its treatment of the gay community.
Lawmakers have until May 25 to make changes to the bill before it moves onto its next reading.