Russia slams US criticism of 'gay propaganda' bill
A top Russian diplomat reacted angrily on Tuesday after the United States strongly criticised a controversial bill backed by the ruling party that calls for a ban on "homosexual propaganda".
"We view with bewilderment the American side's attempts to interfere, what's more, publicly, in the lawmaking process," foreign ministry representative for human rights, Konstantin Dolgov, told the Interfax news agency.
He dismissed as "inappropriate" comments by the US State Department last week that it was "deeply concerned" by the bill, proposed by the ruling United Russia party at the legislature of northwestern city of Saint Petersburg.
The vaguely worded bill would introduce fines of up to 50,000 rubles ($1,598) for "public acts" promoting homosexuality, lesbianism, bisexuality and transgender identity.
Gay activists warn that it could be used to ban any campaign for gay rights.
Homosexuality was decriminalised in Russia in 1993, although day-to-day homophobia is still rife and attempts to hold gay pride marches have been dispersed roughly by riot police.
Legislators passed the bill in its first reading earlier this month and was expected to have its crucial second reading on Wednesday. If passed, it would then need to be approved in a final reading seen as a technicality.
But the bill's author told Russian news agencies on Tuesday the second reading was likely to be postponed until after parliamentary polls on December 4.
"Tomorrow they will not look at second readings (of bills)," Vitaly Milonov of United Russia told Interfax.
Human Rights Watch, a New York-based campaign group, condemned the bill in a statement released late Monday as "draconian."
Arkhangelsk, a city in northern Russia, has already enacted similar legislation.
© 2011 AFP