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Russian Language 'IKEA Family Live' Magazine Cancelled To Avoid Violating Anti-Gay Propaganda Law

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Ikea is shuttering the Russian edition of Ikea Family Live, its popular online home and lifestyle magazine, for fear of violating the country’s anti-gay propaganda that criminalizes the production of images showing LGBT lifestyles in a positive light. While Ikea has been clear that its is still very much an ardent supporter of its gay customers’ rights, the company could be slapped with financial penalties or a three-month long cease-and-desist for the continued production of a Russian language version of the magazine.

Ikea first dealt with Russian censorship back in 2013 when the furniture giant chose to to edit an interview with an English lesbian couple out of the magazine under similar circumstances. At the time Ikea representatives cited their desire to operate in accordance with local laws. This time around however, the company’s decided to pull the plug entirely rather than capitulate.

“The magazine reflects the values of the Ikea company, including equal rights and opportunities for all,” Ikea representatives explained in an online statement in Russian. “We also consider our readers have the right to decide for themselves, what publications might be interesting or worthwhile for them.”

Ikea Family Live will continue to be published in other languages.


Russia Wants To Block Benefits For Families of Gay U.N. Employees

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Russia has demanded that the United Nations (UN) reverse last year’s decision to offer marital benefits to LGBT employees, reports Foreign Policy.

Speaking on Monday morning at a UN budget committee, Russian diplomat Sergey Khalizov said that the administrative ruling announced by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (above) last June violates a General Assembly resolution that left it to UN employees’ governments to determine whether employees are eligible for spousal benefits.

2000px-Flag_of_the_United_Nations.svgRussia’s spokesman told Foreign Policy:

“For us it is a very important issue. We would prefer to make a decision…by consensus but if some delegations do not demonstrate a constructive approach to the concerns raised by us and shared by many other member states, then we’ll have no other choice but to call for a vote.”

It is thought that Russia could win if it calls for a vote on the issue, partly because the permanent members of the UN Security Council (China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, and United States) cannot use a veto at the budget committee, known as the Fifth Committee.

The move is seen as a cynical political maneuver that aims to check the authority of a UN leader who has clashed with Moscow over its policies from Syria to Ukraine.

Jessica Stern, the executive director of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, said:

“[Russia] is looking for any excuse to curtail the UN Secretary-General’s authority. It’s no secret that the Secretary-General and Russia have been at cross-purposes over Ukraine and Syria, and the Russians have found the perfect political vehicle for attacking him.”

Philippe Bolopion, the UN representative for Human Rights Watch, said member states “should push back hard against Russia’s backwards efforts to impose on the UN the same kind of homophobic attitudes Moscow promotes at home.”

UN officials say if the Russian initiative were to succeed, it could have an impact well beyond same-sex marriages, risking benefits for children adopted in a foreign country.


Russian Government Takes Revenge on Lesbians Who Kiss-Trolled Anti-Gay Politician

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In early February we reported on a pair of lesbians who found themselves on a plane with Russia's leading anti-gay politician Vitaly Milonov, and decided to troll him by capturing him in a photo in which they were kissing. They then posted the photo to social media where it went viral.

The couple owns Infinity, a lesbian nightclub in St. Petersburg.

MilonovNow, the action has cost them in a big way, Global Voices reports:

Milonov didn’t find the stunt very amusing, however. He called the girls “crazy little morons” and said he was “ashamed for their parents, who raised such idiots.”

Two days later, on February 3, an anti-gay online community based in Moscow and St. Petersburg published a call to get Infinity closed down. The group posted instructions and a scripted complaint to be sent to the district attorney, demanding that police shut down the lesbian nightclub. Community members were also encouraged to appeal to Roskomnadzor, Russia’s state-run media watchdog, and federal anti-drug agents, based on claims that Infinity opens its doors to minors and operates as a center for illegal drug use.

The anti-gay group, called Moscow Isn’t Sodom and Petersburg Isn’t Gomorrah, claims that at least 524 of the club’s 30,000 VKontakte community members are underage, making the “propagation of homosexuality” a federal crime. Access to Infinity’s VKontakte group is restricted to members, making it difficult to verify accusations that it caters to minors.

Those who want the nightclub shut down are instructed to convey their concerns to police. “I have every reason to believe,” the scripted complaint reads, “that the promotional activities carried out at the lesbian club Infinity pose a serious threat to the physical and mental health of minors who manage to enter the establishment.”

Infinity was raided as a direct result of the kissing selfie. Whether or not the club will be shut for good is not clear.


Edward Snowden: Gay Marriage Would Have Been Impossible Under 'Perfect Surveillance'

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In Edward Snowden’s opinion the U.S.’s current LGBTQ rights movement would not have been possible in a world where government surveillance was ubiquitous. In a surprise Ask Me Anything session hosted on Reddit, Snowden fielded a wide range of questions from users of the popular news platform.

“Perfect surveillance,” he explained, would be antithetical to the subversive origins of most of the major social revolutions that have shaped American history:

“When we look back on history, the progress of Western civilization and human rights is actually founded on the violation of law. America was of course born out of a violent revolution that was an outrageous treason against the crown and established order of the day.

"History shows that the righting of historical wrongs is often born from acts of unrepentant criminality. Slavery. The protection of persecuted Jews. But even on less extremist topics, we can find similar examples. How about the prohibition of alcohol? Gay marriage? Marijuana?

"Where would we be today if the government, enjoying powers of perfect surveillance and enforcement, had — entirely within the law — rounded up, imprisoned, and shamed all of these lawbreakers?"

h/t Pink News


Intimate Photo of Russian Gay Couple Crowned World Press Photo of the Year

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Danish photographer Mads Nissen's above image of a gay couple in Russia has just won the World Press Photo of the Year 2014, the Associated Press reports:

The intimate image of Jon and Alex is part of a larger project by Nissen called "Homophobia in Russia" that highlights how life is increasingly difficult for sexual minorities in Russia.

Nissen said he sees the image, shot in St. Petersburg, as "a modern-day Romeo and Juliet story" about two people in love but facing outside forces who want to deny them their feelings.

Its sensitivity also appeared intended to act as a counterpoint to gruesome photographs and video spread by terrorists that increasingly come to dominate the news.

"Today, terrorists use graphic images for propaganda. We have to respond with something more subtle, intense and thoughtful," said World Press Photo jury member Alessia Glaviano.

Check out more images from Nissen's powerful and haunting "Homophobia in Russia" here


Odin Biron, American Star Of Hit Russian Sitcom, Comes Out As Gay

Odin Biron

Interns is the Russian equivalent of Scrubs: a handful of doctors-in-training deal with the day-to-day shenanigans of life in a hospital under an unreasonable boss while the main protagonist drifts in and out of wacky daydreams. Though the viewership is at best half of that of Scrubs, Interns' 3.7 million viewers per episode makes it one of Gazprom-Media’s flagship programs.

Odin Biron from Duluth, MN plays Phil, the fish-out-of-water American trying to navigate life in Russia, and due to the program's success Biron has found himself with unexpected celebrity status and is the de facto face of America in Russian pop culture.

Needless to say, it is a very big deal that he is a gay man.

Biron exists in that awkward space of publicly closeted and privately out: his family and very close friends know, but his workplace and the Russian populace at large are unaware, at least until now. Biron had good reason to keep it to himself beyond the general anti-gay sentiment pervading Russian culture. His co-worker who plays his boss - sort of the Dr. Cox role, to continue the Scrubs comparison - is Ivan Okhlobystin, the popular Russian actor, sci-fi writer, and aspiring politician who thinks gays should be burned alive in ovens.

Okhlobystin was actually rather fond of Biron; so much so that when Okhlobystin greets Biron with smiles and hugs he promises, "‘Odin, I’m gonna bomb the crap out of America, but I’m gonna save Minnesota because of you.’ ” His tune has since changed, attacking Biron on Twitter by calling him a "sodomite", banged his head against the wall, and "cursed fate", asking God to protect him from this "devilry". 

Presently Biron is splitting his time between Minneapolis and Moscow and has enrolled in culinary school in the States and is entertaining the idea of opening a theater, restaurant, or both, but first he has the sixth season of Interns - complete with very awkward script readings - to look forward to.


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