A proposed amendment to expand Russia’s anti-LGBTQ+ propaganda law has passed through the first round of government voting.
On Thursday, officials in the Duma, the country’s lower house of parliament, unanimously approved the expansion, which would ban “any event or act deemed to promote homosexuality,” Reuters reports.
The original law, passed in 2013, banned the promotion of material related to sexual orientation and gender identity to minors, but has been used more widely to crack down on LGBTQ+ organizations and events.
Under the proposed amendments, the 2013 restriction would be expanded to include LGBTQ+ content for persons of any age.
“We are not banning references to LGBT as a phenomenon. We are banning propaganda and the wording is extremely important here,” said Alexander Khinshtein, a Russian lawmaker and proponent of the expanded bill, as reported by Reuters.
He added, “LGBT today is an element of hybrid warfare and in this hybrid warfare we must protect our values, our society and our children.”
Proponents of the legislation have argued that the ban is a way to protect Russian values. Opponents are more critical.
A 2018 report by the Human Rights Watch alleged that the 2013 bill further stigmatized LGBTQ+ individuals, particularly youth, who already faced barriers in Russia. The “law is a classic example of political homophobia,” the report stated. “It targets vulnerable sexual and gender minorities for political gain.”
Regarding the proposed expansion, a representative of LGBT Network told Reuters that the law would be a “total state abolition of LGBT+,” adding that the Russian government aims “to completely erase any mention of us in culture.”
The Duma had convened earlier this month to discuss the expansion to the 2013 bill. Before going into effect, the proposed new bill would have to pass through two more rounds of voting in the Duma and one in the upper house before being signed into law by Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, The Moscow Times reports.