Russia’s State Duma on Wednesday took another step toward passing a law that would ban the distribution of material promoting “non-traditional sexual relations,” and cited the growing debate over LGBTQ rights and gender fluidity in the U.S. as a reason for the law.
The bill under consideration at the State Duma, Russia’s lower house, would prohibit websites from distributing materials related to LGBTQ or those that might prompt children to seek gender reassignment surgery. It also blocks the sale of physical products dealing with these issues, along with books and movies.
Similarly, advertisements would be banned from including “information demonstrating non-traditional sexual relations or preferences.”
The Duma gave the measure a second reading on Wednesday. Under the Russian legislative process, a third reading is needed to pass the bill to the Federation Council, the upper House. Once passed there, it can be signed by President Vladimir Putin.
According to the Duma, the author of the measure is State Duma Chairman Vyacheslav Volodin, who cited trends in the U.S. and Europe as a reason to pass it.
“He cited data from opinion polls, according to which 16% of Europeans aged 14 to 29 identify themselves as LGBT,” the Duma reported. “And in the U.S. state of Maryland, the number of students who have not decided on their gender due to the promotion of non-traditional relationships has grown almost six times in two years and today makes up 45% of all students in the state.”
The Duma did not cite where it received the polls, and it was not immediately clear if the polls are in fact accurate.
“We must do everything to protect our children and those who want to live a normal life. Everything else is sin, sodomy, darkness, and our country is fighting this,” Volodin said, according to the Duma.
Under a second proposed law that also received a second reading Wednesday, both entities and people could be fined for violating the rules.
“For violation of the ban on propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations or preferences among people of any age, a fine of 50 thousand to 400 thousand rubles for citizens, from 100 thousand to 800 thousand – for officials, from 800 thousand to 5 million or suspension of activities up to 90 days – for legal entities,” the Duma said. Fines are much higher for pedophilia violations – up to 800,000 rubles for people, 2 million rubles for officials and 10 million rubles for legal entities.
The bills are likely to draw fire from the Biden administration, which has supported LGBTQ rights and the right of people to adopt new gender identities, including through medical surgeries. Just this week, Secretary of State Antony Blinken scolded the World Cup for not allowing players to wear a rainbow armband signifying opposition to discrimination against LGBT and other people.
“It’s always concerning from my perspective when we see any restrictions on freedom of expression. It’s especially so when the expression is for diversity and for inclusion,” Blinken said in Qatar.
The State Department did not immediately return a request for comment on the Duma’s work on the bill.