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Russia Poised to Criminalize Coming Out

Russia gay rights

The bill's sponsor claims that 'homosexuality is a lethal threat for the whole of humankind.'

Two years after Russian president Vladimir Putin signed into law a nationwide ban on so-called gay propaganda, conservative lawmakers are considering making that law even more punitive for LGBT people, calling for additional fines and jail time for those who dare to come out in public.

The new bill is being drafted as an amendment to Russia's infamous ban on "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations," which currently imposes fines and censure for any person or agency making pro-LGBT statements in any venue that could be accessible to minors. The original legislation was drafted by members of Putin's ruling United Russia Party, though both chambers of Russia's legislature passed the law unanimously.

If the proposed amendment is signed into law, anyone who publicly declares a "'non-traditional sexual orientation' could be fined $5,000 roubles ($80) for 'demonstrating [their] own expressed sexual preferences in public places," reports Newsweek Europe. Making such a declaration in a school, "cultural establishment," or government building could land the offender in jail for 15 days.

Basing its report on a Russian state-owned newspaper's coverage of the draft legislation, Newsweek notes that two members of the Communist Party introduced the bill as a way to regulate Russian morality, claiming that the country's draconian ban on alleged gay propaganda is "insufficient."

"I believe that the problem we have raised is one of the most pressing and topical issues as it addresses the social ills of our society and deals with the moral education of the next generation," Communist lawmaker Ivan Nikitchuk told Izvestia, the Russian paper. "In the biological sense, not reproducing is the same as death, and in that sense homosexuality is a lethal threat for the whole of humankind."

Since Putin signed the sweeping nationwide ban on so-called propaganda in July 2013, LGBT people in Russia and its territories have faced increasingly violent repression. Openly LGBT people have been arrested, social networking groups for LGBT youth have been shuttered, media outlets that report on LGBT people and issues have been fined, and the country's few remaining gay and lesbian bars have been raided, as the owners of those establishments and other LGBT people have fled the country.

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