St. Petersburg, Russia - Today, Coming Out St Petersburg, a Russian organization working for equality for lesbian, gay, bi and trans people, was fined 500,000 roubles ($15,000) under the 'foreign agent' law - a fine that is putting the organization's future at risk.
"The level of the crackdown against gay and lesbian people in Russia is at a new high," said Polina A. from Russia's equality organization Coming Out, All Out's partner in Russia for the last two years. "We have seen what All Out members can do to bring the attention of the whole world at critical moments. Now it's time world leaders pay attention to us or soon there will be no more human rights and equality defenders in Russia."
Last week, Russia's Parliament passed a bill that would make it a crime for people to say being gay or lesbian is normal, to celebrate pride, or to tell minors it is OK to be gay if they are struggling with their sexual orientation. Foreigners could be deported from Russia if they even communicate electronically in support of gays and lesbians. The State Duma voted 434-0 with one abstention. It is expected to easily pass the upper House, after which Putin is expected to sign the bill.
Germany was one of the first countries to join the global outcry against the anti-gay crackdown in Russia. "We are not giving up hope that the Russian government and Duma will revoke this measure. In any case, Germany will keep this issue on the agenda," Angela Merkel's spokesman said.
The Russian government is suing gay rights organizations under the new "Foreign Agents" law. The law stipulates that any organization working on "political" issues that receives support from outside of Russia has to be identified as a "foreign agent." So-called "foreign agents" are considered enemies of Russia under the law.
"This bill is outrageous and incredibly dangerous for millions in Russia - both gay and straight," Andre Banks Executive Director and Co-founder of All Out said. "This is a dangerous crackdown on free speech. No one will be safe from the witch hunt that will ensue, not gay people, not straight people, not even foreign businessmen and women traveling to Russia."
"Russia's human rights organizations do not have enormous budgets, so a 500,000 rouble fine will not be easily absorbed," Joe Mirabella Director of Community Campaigns said. "Fines like this could bankrupt organizations like Coming Out St. Petersburg and other non profits."
More than 175,000 people from within Russia and around the world signed a petition on All Out calling for Putin to stop the legal assault on gays and lesbians.
To see the live signature totals from All Out's petition visit: .