In a surprise move, Russian lawmakers voted against a bill that would fine or imprison gay people for coming out, or even holding hands.
The Russian House Committee for Constitutional Law just voted unanimously against a bill that would have further criminalized homosexuality. The legislation, drafted by Communist Caucus members Ivan Nikitchuk and Nikolai Arefyev, would have allowed for fines and even prison time for the "crime" of coming out as gay or even for holding hands. The two lawmakers said the bill was created in response to requests from constituents.
The bill would have criminalized "anyone who shows 'distorted sexual preferences' in public places to be fined between 4000 and 5000 rubles ($53-$66)," RT reports. "Similar actions in educational or cultural establishments should carry up to 15 days in jail, the draft reads."
RT claims that "when the bill was initially introduced in October 2015 it met with sharp criticism from all sections of Russian society, including even the main sponsor of a 2013 law banning gay propaganda to minors, St. Petersburg city lawmaker Vitaly Milonov."
Human Rights Watch noted before the vote that the "State Duma’s Legal Directorate concluded in its review that the Communists’ bill was unclear and vague," which may have contributed to its demise today. It would not be surprising to see a new version drafted and submitted for review and a vote in the future.
But Vladimir Putin's anti-gay laws, which also banned public displays of affection or the so-called "promotion of homosexuality" were supported by 88 percent of Russians.
Putin's anti-LGBT policies strengthened and emboldened an already homophobic culture, allowing violent sexual assaults and kidnapping of Russian men, especially younger men, to go ignored.