A controversial new plan in Russia that could punish gay couples for public shows of affection has cleared the first stage towards becoming law.
Gay rights protesters staged a kiss-in as MPs were debating the bill in the lower house of parliament, the Duma.
It would outlaw what it calls ‘homosexual propaganda’, which would cover anything from gay-rights leaflets to gay pride marches.
Critics though, say the term is so vague that it could even be used to punish gay couples for kissing in the street or even holding hands.
It sailed through its first reading, with only one Russian MP voting against it – there were 388 votes for.
The opposition leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky said he was in favour of some type of legislation but warned they were going about it the wrong way. He said the debates themselves were homosexual propaganda.
The veteran human rights campaigner Lyudmila Alexeyeva described the bill as ‘mediaeval’.
Gay-rights activist Elena Kostyuchenko added: “The law absolutely does not define what ‘gay propaganda’ is, and the reasons are clear, because it does not exist. In that respect, any information on, as the law puts it, ‘equally values of traditional and unorthodox marital relations’ is considered ‘gay propaganda’.”
In recent months, supporters of President Putin have emphasised their view of traditional, conservative Russian values.
Russian Orthodox Christians clashed with gay-rights demonstrators outside the Duma building.
Police say about 20 people were arrested in scuffles.