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Moscow Duma rejects anti-gay gag law

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Moscow Duma rejects anti-gay gag law

BY NATASHA BARSOTTI - Moscow's regional Duma has reportedly rejected an anti-gay bill that would have prohibited so-called "propaganda of homosexuality," saying it conflicted with Russian federal law, The Moscow Times reports.

"The deputies didn't approve it," a spokesperson for the Duma told RIA Novosti News Nov 22. The measure, meant to make "non-traditional sexual orientation propaganda to minors" illegal was filed with the regional parliament Nov 16 by the local Council of Municipal Entities, according to the report.

In rejecting the anti-gay gag law, the Duma of the Moscow region has bucked a trend in which at least four other Russian cities -- Ryazan, Arkhangelsk, Kostroma and St Petersburg -- have all passed "gay propaganda" laws. Novosibirsk, Russia's third-largest city, had also successfully piloted similar legislation through its first reading. 

On May 31, a St Petersburg court ruled that the city's use of a gay propaganda law to ban queer activists from staging rallies for the March 7 Day of Silence and the May 17 International Day against Homophobia and Transphobia was unlawful. The Smolninsky district court judge said authorities were not in a position to determine if the rallies -- even before they had taken place -- would lead to homosexual propaganda. The judge also found there was no authority to deny a public rally under federal law.

However, the judgment did not mean future rallies would be approved by city authorities.

In October, Ukraine's parliament also took initial steps toward enacting similar legislation, voting overwhelmingly in favour of a measure that would hand down prison terms of up to five years to those convicted of spreading propaganda that publicly depicts gay people and homosexuality in a positive light. Another vote on the bill was due later that month. President Viktor Yanukovych had refused to say whether he would sign the bill into law.

Gay rights activist Nikolai Alexeyev has characterized the rise of the anti-gay laws as a case of "one step backward, two steps forward." Backward because it sheds light on the "stupid" thinking of those who initiate such laws and provides a benchmark on where the wider society stands on the question of homosexuality. "In the majority of polls, Russians are absolutely supporting these bills," Alexeyev told Xtra in May. He says the last federal poll showed, however, that only eight percent of those surveyed said they ever saw propaganda of homosexuality. "People want to ban something they never saw. It's ridiculous."

Alexeyev continues to be a thorn in the side of Moscow authorities and has been at the forefront of attempts to stage Moscow Pride events, which have now been banned for 100 years, a decision upheld by the city's court despite its breach of European law.

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