Russia’s lower house of parliament has started the process of passing a law that would make it illegal to spread homosexual "propaganda." Police arrested several activists who protested against the move.
The Duma voted 388-1 in favor of the bill in first reading on Friday. If passed into law, the legislation would make it illegal for gays or lesbians to hold demonstrations or kiss in public.
The legislation would allow the authorities to impose fines of up to 5,000 rubles, (124 euros, $165) and 500,000 rubles on organizations.
Supporters of the bill say it is needed to protect Russian children.
"The unbridled propaganda of homosexuality anywhere you look effectively limits the child's right to free development," the chair of the Duma's family affairs committee, Yelena Mizulina, told journalists ahead of Friday's session.
Just minutes earlier, police arrested around 20 gay activists who had held a "kiss-in" to protest against the bill. Small scuffles broke out between gay activists and supporters of the bill.
Homosexuality was decriminalized in Russia in 1993, but the authorities have banned gay rights parades in recent years and there have been a number of cases of violent attacks on gay activists.
Critics of the legislation say they fear it could help incite violence against gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender individuals.
Similar local laws are already in force in a number of Russian cities, including Saint Petersburg.
Before President Vladimir Putin can sign the bill into law, it has to pass through two more readings in the Duma, before being forwarded to Russia's upper house of parliament.
pfd/kms (AFP, dpa)
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