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September 26, 2017

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Russia gives new 'Beauty and the Beast' film a 16+ rating

MOSCOW -- Despite pressure from an ultra-conservative lawmaker, Russia's Culture Ministry has approved the release of Disney's "Beauty and the Beast" movie despite protests over a gay character.

The ministry told The Associated Press on Tuesday that it has granted a screening license to the film with a 16-plus age restriction.

The film's characters include manservant Le Fou, who plays the sidekick to the story's villain Gaston and, according to director Bill Condon, "is confused about his sexuality." Condon has described a brief scene as a "gay moment."

In Alabama, a drive-in movie theater said it would not be showing the film as planned because of the scene.

The culture ministry's decision comes several days after Vitaly Milonov, a lawmaker known for his extreme-right views, petitioned the ministry to ban it. In a letter released by the RIA Novosti news agency on Saturday, Milonov protested that the film disseminates "overt and shameless propaganda of sin and sexual perversion under the guise of a fairy tale."

Milonov, who was elected to the State Duma last year, is a former local lawmaker in St. Petersburg who has built his political career on opposing LGBT rights.

In 2013, Russia passed a federal law banning "gay propaganda" among minors. It was worded vaguely so it can be applied in a wide range of circumstances, for example, making it easy to target gay and lesbian teachers in Russia because they work directly with children. The law was modeled on a St. Petersburg bill that Milonov authored a year earlier.

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