- (Photo: Reuters/Alexsey Druginyn/RIA Novosti/Pool)
Russia has defended a bill that seeks to outlaw what it calls "homosexual propaganda," arguing that the country should not be expected to comply with the European Union or international views on tolerance.
"We don't have a single international or common European commitment to allow propaganda of homosexuality," Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Tuesday, according to The Associated Press.
Russia is currently considering a bill that would make public events in support of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community illegal, with those deemed to be targeting minors subject to fines of up to $16,000.
Unlike most other European nations, the Russian government has remained conservative in its views on same-sex relationships, supporting traditional relationships as defined between a man and a woman. It officially decriminalized homosexuality in 1993, but authorities continue cracking down on gay rallies and parades.
Dutch Foreign Minister Frans Timmermans has spoken out against the bill, insisting that Russia needs to follow international human right laws.
"Discrimination against homosexuals is unacceptable. Gay rights are human rights and Russia must adhere to its international obligations," Timmermans had said, urging the Russian parliament to drop the bill.
The debate stems from what the opposing sides define as "human rights" and "homosexual propaganda." Lavrov rejected claims that the law seeking to protect children from being exposed to gay events is infringing on anyone's human rights, saying that since 1993 LGBT people have been able to "go about their business absolutely freely and unpunished."
The Russian foreign minister explained that his country has its own moral, religious and historical values, and that other organizations should not seek to impose their values on them.
Lavrov added that a different form of discrimination arises "when one group of citizens gets the right to aggressively promote their own values that run against those shared by the majority of the society and impose them on children."
Not all Russians are in support of the bill, however, and gay right supporters have been protesting in front of the parliament building, trying to raise awareness for the problems LGBT people face in Russia.
Tensions between gay rights activists and the Russian government were notably high last year, when activists in Saint Petersburg released rainbow balloons in a city park and tried to hold a demonstration, only to have their efforts broken apart by police.
In May, 40 people in Moscow were arrested when two protesting groups clashed, one advocating for a gay pride parade in the Russian capital, the other – comprised of Orthodox Christians, the largest religious group in the nation – protesting against homosexuality.