MOSCOW (The Blaze/AP) — 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. This “gay propaganda” ban would expand similar regulations that are already in place in local areas within Russia.

Russian Orthodox Church Leader Pushes for Gay Propaganda Ban | Father Dmitry Pershin

Similar legislation approved late February in the country’s second largest city, St. Petersburg, mandated fines of up to $33,000. The New York Times has more about the previous legislation that was passed:

The law…appears to be a reaction to increasingly vocal efforts by gay rights groups, particularly in St. Petersburg and Moscow, to attract attention to the issue. [...]

Under the new law, which passed 29 to 5, “public actions directed at the propaganda of sodomy, lesbianism, bisexuality and transgenderism among minors” will be punishable with fines…The law defines propaganda of homosexuality as “the targeted and uncontrolled dissemination of generally accessible information capable of harming the health and moral and spiritual development of minors,” particularly that which could create “a distorted impression” of “marital relations.”

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

Russian Orthodox Church Leader Pushes for Gay Propaganda Ban | Father Dmitry PershinGay rights activists say the law could be used to ban any public demonstrations by Russia’s embattled gay and transgender community.

Interfax has more about the debate and what proponents and opponents have to say about the controversial proposal:

“The law passed in St. Petersburg will help protect children from information manipulations by minorities promoting sodomy,” Hieromonk Dimitry (Pershin), an expert with the State Duma committee on family, women and children, said in an interview with Interfax-Religion commenting on the reports saying that St. Petersburg Governor Georgy Poltavchenko has signed amendments to the city law On Administrative Violations Envisioning Liability for Propaganda of Homosexuality and Pedophilia Among Minors.

“The persistence of sexual minorities and their intention to rally near children’s establishments indicate that this regional law is highly needed and should be urgently given federal status. However, it’s the job of State Duma deputies,” Hieromonk Dimitry said.

Gay pride parade organizer Nikolay Alexeyev earlier said sexual minorities intended to hold protest rallies near some children’s establishments in St. Petersburg to protest the law.

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.