MOSCOW Moscow has banned gays and lesbians from promoting their way of life because they can help spread HIV/AIDS, the Russian capital's 72-year-old mayor was quoted as saying on Thursday by RIA news agency.
Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, speaking at an HIV/AIDS conference in Moscow, also said there was no scientific proof that condoms provided full protection against sexually transmitted diseases.
"We have banned, and will ban, the propaganda of sexual minorities' opinions because they can be one of the factors in the spread of HIV infection," Luzhkov was quoted as saying by state-owned RIA.
"Some home-grown democrats consider that sexual minorities are a major indicator and symbol of democracy but we will continue to ban the spread of their views," Luzhkov said.
Luzhkov's administration has banned several gay rights marches in Moscow in the interests, it argues, of ensuring security and preventing public disorder.
Luzhkov's chief spokesman, Sergei Tsoi, said he had no comment to make on the RIA report.
Russia decriminalised homosexuality in 1993 but tolerance is not widespread.
Some gay clubs exist in major cities but same-sex couples almost never show affection in public and the country's powerful Russian Orthodox Church disapproves of homosexuality.
While still president, Vladimir Putin quipped that his approach to sexual minorities was guided by Russia's demographic problems. The country is short of children.
Luzhkov's views are widely known and he has repeatedly banned gay parades in Moscow. Two years ago police, militant Russian Orthodox churchgoers and neo-fascists attacked the first gay rights march in Moscow.
And his comments came as no surprise to Gay Russia, a Moscow-based gay rights group.
"We have to remember that the mayor of Moscow is one of the most homophobic politicians in Russia," the group said in a statement. "For three years Yury Luzhkov has prohibited holding gay pride marches in the Russian capital."
(Writing by James Kilner, additional reporting by Aidar Buribayev and Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Richard Balmforth)