The Russian Duma has preliminarily approved a law to ban the spreading of ‘propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations’, in a move denounced by human rights groups.
Russia has moved to tighten its controversial law against LGBTQ "propaganda" by banning it for all adults and not just children.
The new legislation will now ban any pro-LGBTQ publications in Russian advertising, media, books, films, and theatre productions.
Russian lawmakers gave unanimous preliminary approval to the bill at its first reading in parliament on Thursday.
International human rights groups have long denounced Russia's 2013 "propaganda" law for stifling public debate and violating the rights of LGBTQ citizens.
LGBT Network chairwoman Natalia Soloviova told AFP the new law could lead to an increase in hate crimes and will "create a situation in which no one can speak openly or positively about LGBTQ people".
Those found guilty face a fine of up to 400,000 rubles (€6,500) and may even be expelled by Russia if they are a foreign national. The fine for companies could be up to 5 million rubles (€81,500).
Previously, the “promotion of non-traditional sexual relations” or "denial of family values" was banned for any Russian citizen under the age of 18.
The new law also bans any demonstration or children's publication about gender transition.
Some rights campaigners believe it will lead to an increase in street violence. Boris Konakov is an LGBTQ activist and said he's struggling to comprehend the situation he now finds himself in.
"I don't really understand," said Konakov. "The state says that I am propaganda, that my personality is propaganda, that my activity is propaganda. My face, it's half titanium, and it suffered sometime (ago) from homophobia. So I'm more traumatized by this Russian propaganda. It's more traumatic for me."
However, the Duma Deputy Alexander Khinshtein said the bill is not aimed at banning the community - just to ban the promotion of anything that isn't heterosexual.
"Our bill is not an act of censorship. We do not ban LGBT as a phenomenon. We do not put a ban on mentioning it, we only say that propaganda, that is, positive promotion, praise, that this is normal, and maybe even better than traditional sexual relations, should be banned," explained Khinshtein.
"We must protect our citizens and Russia from degradation and extinction, from the darkness spread by the US and European states," Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin said in a statement.
The law will face two further readings from Russian lawmakers before it will go before President Vladimir Putin for approval.
Russia has tightened its stance against Western values and ideals amid its invasion of Ukraine.