CNN news 2013-08-14

CNN news 2013-08-14

This is Vitaly Milonov practicing his faith. He says he found Christianity while traveling in the United States. He joined the Russian Orthodox Church and was later elected to St. Petersburg's city council. He tells me about his politics. It's pretty standard stuff for a Christian conservative.

Russian family church traditions.

But one issue has brought Milonov national influence and international fame.

These sick people who are marching on the gay marches, while trying to proclaim - to attract people with their naked bodies.

Milonov wasn't the first Russian politician to think up a law banning gay propaganda, but his efforts drove it onto the books in Russia's second city, its cultural capital, St. Petersburg. Soon after, it was adopted nationally, inspiring protests and violence that have shocked many around the world. At the heart of the law is the belief gay and straight relationships are not equal and it enforces big fines on anyone who suggests otherwise to children.

Or other relations, you know, sins. For me they are sins. For many doctors it's a disease, I know, but it's not - it cannot be called equal.

This is Igor Yessin, practicing what he believes in. Yessin grew up and came out in the remote Russian region of Kazakhstan. He moved to Moscow and began the often dangerous job of fighting for gay rights in Russia. He's got the scars to prove it.

He tells me about his broken jaw, broken nose, the results of multiple beatings. That was before the gay propaganda law became a reality. Yessin says his country has always had little tolerance for open homosexuality and there's even less now that the law says gay relationships are unequal. Yessin knows he's part of a distinct minority, socially liberal, those who want Russia to change. Vitaly Milonov says he's a voice of the conservative Russian majority, those who believe in what they call traditional Russian values.

These two men represent a sharp social divide that is now being exposed to the world as Russia prepares to host next year's winter Olympics in Sochi. Milonov says gay athletes and tourists are welcome, but he hopes they will respect Russia's traditions and laws. Yessin hopes athletes and visitors will join him in challenging laws and ideas he believes promote intolerance and discrimination.

Phil Black, CNN, Moscow.