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Russia Defends 'Homosexual Propaganda' Measure

Gay rights activists kiss during a protest against the proposed "homosexual propaganda" measure outside the Duma, Russia's lower house of Parliament, in Moscow, January 22, 2013.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Tuesday a bill passed in the country’s lower house of parliament that would outlaw so-called “homosexual propaganda” does not violate Moscow’s international obligations. He defended the proposed measure, which forbids public events and the dissemination of information about gays, lesbians or transgendered people to minors, despite criticism from the European Union and the Dutch government.

Russia has its own moral, historical, religious, and cultural values, and does not discriminate against anyone, said Lavrov, adding that the government must protect its citizens from people who aggressively promote their own values that run against those shared by the majority of the society, and who try to impose those values on children.

Lavrov made the comments during a news conference in Moscow with Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans.

Earlier this month, Timmermans urged the Kremlin not to make the bill law, and said he would raise the issue with Lavrov.

“Discrimination against homosexuals is unacceptable," Timmermans said. "Gay rights are human rights and Russia must adhere to its international obligations.”

Lavrov dismissed Timmermans’ stand, saying homosexuals can go about their business freely and unpunished, which conforms to the obligations of all states to forbid discrimination because of any given attribute. But he said the state has no obligation to permit propaganda.

Russia decriminalized homosexuality in 1993, but the government routinely bans gay pride parades and rallies. Critics and gay activists say the proposed measure is just another way for the government to promote homophobia. Backers of the bill say it is meant to protect children who cannot adequately analyze information for themselves.

The bill has to be passed by the upper house of parliament and signed by the president.