22:59 GMT +3 hours23 November 2014
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Ukraine President Calls for ‘Balance’ on Gay Propaganda Bill

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(updated 18:28 28.10.2014)
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A bill making the promotion of homosexuality a criminal offense needs a balanced approach, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych said on Wednesday.

A bill making the promotion of homosexuality a criminal offense needs a balanced approach, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych said on Wednesday.

Earlier this month Ukrainian lawmakers passed the bill in the first reading, in a move similar to recent legislation adopted in Russia’s second largest city of St. Petersburg.

The draft legislation has been slammed by international public organizations as discrimination against sexual minorities.

“It is drawing a negative reaction from international rights organizations but we should take public opinion into account and reckon with it, also [take into account] the opinion of believers,” he said.

“We need to exercise a very balanced approach toward this issue.”

He admitted, however, that it was difficult to force the MPs “to press or not to press the [voting] button,” especially on issues where they have their own persuasions, “regardless of political colors.”

The bill envisions prison terms of up to five years and hefty fines for the promotion of homosexuality.

The bill's authors claim "gay propaganda" could lead to a worsening of Ukraine's HIV/AIDS situation and destroy the traditional family institution, causing a demographic crisis in the country.

On October 11, a St. Petersburg city court started a preliminary hearing into lawsuits against U.S. pop diva Madonna and organizers of her recent St. Petersburg concert seeking a total of 333 million rubles ($10.5 million) in damages for violating a ban on “gay propaganda.”

Nine people filed lawsuits demanding compensation for “moral damages” stemming from “the open promotion of homosexuality” during her August 9 concert in Russia’s second largest city.