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Russian Orthodox Church urges 'gay propaganda' ban

ASSOCIATED PRESS

MOSCOW -- A leading official in the Russian Orthodox Church has urged federal lawmakers to adopt a bill outlawing what he called the promotion of homosexuality among minors.

Similar legislation approved late February in Russia's second largest city, St. Petersburg, mandated fines of up to $33,000.

Father Dmitry Pershin, head of the church's youth council, said Monday in a statement that the law should be applied nationwide "without delay."

Gay rights activists say the law could be used to ban any public demonstrations by Russia's embattled gay and transgender community.

Homosexuality was decriminalized in Russia in 1993, but anti-gay sentiments remain strong.

The Orthodox Church, which was heavily suppressed in Soviet times, has exercised a growing influence on public policy in Russia.

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