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Gay Mayors Take Mild Stand on Anti-gay Moscow Mayor Luzhkov

Mayors

The mayors of Europe's four largest cities - London, Paris, Moscow, and Berlin, met in London along with the mayor of Beijing to discuss challenges facing their cities, and were met with protest by gay rights activists angry at the anti-gay policies of Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, who has banned a gay pride parade from happening in that city.

Two of the four mayors, Bertrand Delanoe of Paris (far left, above) and Klaus Wowereit of Berlin (far right, above), are openly gay, yet appeared to some news outlets to simply "look on" as Luzhkov branded homosexuality "wrong and unusual".

According to UK Gay News, Maria Tabak of the Russian RIA Novosti news agency asked if the mayors had raised the "controversial issues" of gay parades in Moscow: "How could we have avoided this subject? And why are you interested in this subject, Mayor? There was a lot discussed in the media. First of all what you said about gay parades and also about what Mr. Livingstone said on the same issue."

Mayors2The translation appears to not be as smooth as I'd like, but here's Luzhkov's response:

“We have a different position as far as gay parades. We have different concerns – different opinions. It’s enough, in terms of our understanding – we understand what is proposed by other mayors. I don’t know what the position is of the Mayor of Beijing. My position is different from the three [other European mayors]. We were talking about sexual minorities and when we discuss it, the states have different attitudes to this issue. Specifically, in Russia, in 1993 – 14 years ago – the law was changed so sexual minorities were not prosecuted. We have a lot of gay clubs – we don’t know many citizens, for example, have this unusual sexual orientation. But the gay clubs are free to carry out their sexual activity. What we say is that we are against propagating – we are against promoting. Like any other society, we want to protect ourselves from the promotion of alcohol and tobacco. When we promote smoking, it’s bad – it’s wrong. But through the gay parade you promote some uncertainty, of course. It becomes an invitation to acquire this quality of the sexual minorities. This is OK. That is normal. Our view is that it is wrong and unusual. Let the gay people do what they do. But they should not involve the citizens of our country."

Mayors3Luzhkov recently said the gay pride events were "satanic".

Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe said the mayors had discussed it: "We had a debate on this is a very relaxed way. Our differences in the way we see the situation were made with great respect for each other’s views – and in a peaceful and calm way. In terms of discrimination in general, we have to look at equality of rights. That leaves us to combat every form of discrimination. You do not become homosexual – there is no risk of propaganda. This is not a disease you catch at some point. It is somehow part of our identity. Some of us have brown skin, some of us have fair skin, some of us have brown eyes, some of us have blue eyes. We are born heterosexual or homosexual. And that is it."

A German correspondent, Jochen Hick, reportedly asked if Luzhkov would allow the gay pride parade should the other mayors at the conference say they want to attend. Last year parade organizers attempted to hold events even after the parade was banned. The resulting violence from Russian nationalists and ultra-orthodox Christians injured visiting gay German MP, Volker Beck (see photo):

A8volker_1_1Luzhkov responded: “I am not going to allow the gay parade. The final decision is taken by the court. If the court makes the decision to allow the gay parade, then the participants are free to parade. Last year, the court supported my decision and the gay parade didn’t take place. If the gay parade is not allowed [by the court], that is according to the law.”

London Mayor Ken Livingstone, who was moderating the event, was branded a hypocrite for not taking a stronger stand in person against Luzhkov's position on gay rights after releasing a printed statement criticizing the Moscow mayor's views. Journalist Nicolas Alexeyev says Livingstone ignored his attempts to ask a question at the press conference because he was critical of the London mayor's policies: "It is very easy to make statements from his office about supporting gay rights. It is not so easy to be brave enough to tackle the Moscow Mayor about his attitudes."

Livingstone and Wowereit did not make public comments on the Russian Mayor's views.

Homosexuality Not a Disease, Gay Parisian Mayor Tells Moscow’s Luzhkov [uk gay news]

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Comments

  1. Yuri Luzhkov is obviously an uneducated putz and made his lack of intelligence quite clear in his statements.

    My only concern is, when will the rest of the world be completely overcome by this invasion of the body snatchers? A (gay) French politician that doesn't blow up and spew epithets at the mere suggestion of an insult? Where is the humanity? I expect as much as a quiet demeanor from GB.

    Actually, it is with great wonder that I read about gay rights activists protesting outside a rather delicate meeting. I for one am astounded that Luzhkov agreed to meet with them at all! It's a small miracle that this kind of forum ever happened. We should all be grateful for that and I applaud the men involved for behaving like adults, instead of beating people over the head. Perhaps this is a true signal of significant global change.

    Posted by: FizziekruntNT | Mar 1, 2007 2:57:56 PM


  2. And of course, by "global", I mean, members of NATO.

    Posted by: FizziekruntNT | Mar 1, 2007 3:03:54 PM


  3. I'm very disappointed in their weak response. They are delaying the inevitable and causing more turmoil.

    Posted by: Jack! | Mar 1, 2007 3:18:04 PM


  4. First of all, thank you so much for the coverage Andy.

    >>"They were met with protest by gay rights activists angry at the anti-gay policies of Moscow Mayor."

    This part made me cheer the most. yes! yesss! I know the link said it was only forty people who turned up, but it's a lot of people in response to something that's taking miles away from the UK. And it's only get bigger.

    Shining a light on this issues is what pressures the policians to step up to the plate and address it. I'd say it's what gave 'permission' to mayors from other cities to go further with their questioning..And if it wasn't for LGBT groups making noise and demanding our issues being on the table, then they get ignored.

    Posted by: Da | Mar 1, 2007 4:01:44 PM


  5. Mild stand? This is not at all the spin being put on the story in the Russian press, where the mayors are said to have rebuked Luzhkov. Headlines there include “Mayors of London, Paris, and Berlin Intercede for Moscow Gays,” “The Mayors of Four Capitals Disagree with Luzhkov Ban of Gay Parade,” “The Mayor of London Criticizes Luzhkov for Forbidding the Gay Parade,” “Luzhkov Argues with Gay Mayors.” Not only, according to the Russian press, did the mayors stand up to Luzhkov, but they looked on him with condescending amusement (embarrassing for Russians). Livingstone even pointed out that teachers give lessons in tolerance (suggesting, the Russian press hints, that perhaps Luzhkov needs to go back to elementary school). Even the mayor of Beijing appears more tolerant than Luzhkov!

    Do not underestimate the power of the fact that the Western mayors DID rebuke Luzhkov and that this was covered in the Russian press, as was the fact that two of the mayors are gay. Of course the nationalists will put a different spin on it: look at these silly mayors from the decadent West taking up such an issue. But Luzhkov himself said “I wouldn’t be me, if I didn’t raise the topic of homosexuality in Moscow.”

    The Russian press quotes all three Western mayors as taking up a defense of homosexuality, nondiscrimination, and allowing the parade. It was pointed out that Livingstone, though not gay, takes part in gay parades annually.

    What Luzhkov says about allowing the parade is that while his own opinion will not change (he is quite dense and stubborn), he will abide by the decision of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, which will no doubt be in favor of the parade.

    The Alexeyev mentioned in the summary is not, in fact, a journalist, but the organizer of the Moscow parade, so it’s not all that surprising his question wasn’t taken. While I supported the idea of the parade and argued in favor of participation on gay.ru, the main Russian gay website, there were some questions about its inclusivity: The event was clearly organized for consumption by the West, even to the point where most of the organizing was done in English rather than Russian, and some Russian gays claimed they were physically barred from participating in the planning, which again was conducted in English. That said, I do hope they manage to do it again, and I think they will have more participation after all this publicity.

    Posted by: KevinVT | Mar 1, 2007 5:00:02 PM


  6. Speaking of gay mayors of big european countries, the newly elected Athens mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis should be counted in.

    Even though he remains in the closet keeping the door shut with both hands, its common knowledge that he is gay.

    Posted by: merlin | Mar 1, 2007 8:52:18 PM


  7. Thanks for this Andy, no matter how "weak" the criticism is, I am pleased to see some European mayors taking a stand against homophobia and in favour of gay rights. Some of these mayors are simply wonderful politicians, and I only wish we had better national leadership on this issue.


    Posted by: Sean R | Mar 2, 2007 8:27:50 AM


  8. Excuse my french, but Volker Beck is an idiot! On the one side he criticizes Russians and Poles (because the Polish already aren't exactly popular in Germany), but he has no problems whatsoever with the way the Iranians treat gays.

    He completely lacks any moral convictions (yes, I say moral convictions, because we gays shouldn't leave the field of moral convictions to the nutjobs among the christian right) and would say anything for votes.

    Posted by: Martin | Mar 2, 2007 7:20:26 PM


  9. Just to clarify matters. Nikolai Alexeyev IS a journalist. He is gay and is also one of the co-organizers of Moscow Pride (along with Nikolai Baev and Evgenia Debryanskaya - she runs the gay "12 Volt" bar in Moscow).

    As for the English translation of what Luzhkov said, was was in the report mentioned by Andy was how the Russian translator at the London Mayor's press conference translated it at the time.

    You can see and hear the press conference by going to http://www.london.gov.uk/webcast/feb07/mayorpressconf_4m_280207.asx . The relevant part starts after 24 minutes 15 seconds.

    Both www.pinknews.co.uk and www.ukgaynews.org.uk have provided some good coverage of the matter, the latter website reporting today (March 3) that there has been a lot of coverage of Luzhkov and his stance on Moscow Gay Pride in the Russian media.

    Posted by: Nerva | Mar 3, 2007 9:11:30 AM


  10. I'd just like to point out another aspect of the whole thing: Luzhkov's anti-gay policy and statements are probably meant as a means to attract support from Russian voters. To many he must come across as a real macho, meeting "those faggots from the corrupted west" and giving such statements, thus insulting them. Protesting would only mean playing into his hands, giving him more media coverage. It's probably better to just dismiss him with a wave of the hand and then ignore him.

    Posted by: borut | Mar 3, 2007 1:14:44 PM


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