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Russian Anti-Gay Policies 'Could Kill Its Cities'

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Russia has undergone no shortage of bad press in recent months. Its newly adopted anti-gay propaganda hve prompted outrage the world over, and have already put a damper on events such as the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi and the 2018 FIFA World Cup, months or even years in advance. 

Now, The Atlantic is reporting that Lansing, Michigan, is joining the growing list of global municipalities that are loooking to sever ties with their Russian "sister cities", which already includes the likes of Milan, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Reykjavik. Thus, as Russia inists on moving contrary to the global march toward human rights, the consequences could prove to have political and economic impact:

"St. Petersburg was, for hundreds of years, a city that took pride in its relative openness to global culture. When Peter the Great founded the city in 1703, he envisioned it as a "window on the West," a place where the values of the Enlightenment could be explored and celebrated. It was designed and built by the finest talents from around the world.

"Now, St. Petersburg is leading the way backward. Russia and its cities, by pursuing draconian anti-gay policies, are shutting themselves out of a global community where the benefits of an open society are ever more apparent."

Stolichnaya-1280x960It's no secret that international events such as the Olympics and the World Cup have the potential to generate a host of financial benefits for its host city and host nation. This is, of course, why so many cities vie for a chance to host such events. That said, should hosting a global event prove to be the potential source of controversy for the event's governing body, it would almost certainly deter them from coming back to that same city of country in the future. That's also not counting international boycotts of Russian products, which already have large companies such as SPI Group looking for ways to completely sever ties with the anti-gay nation. Let's also not forget the tourism dollars that Russia stands to lose in the future, from both gay tourists as well as those whom support human rights in general.

Finally, as The Atlantic illustrated by presenting the story of journalist and activist Masha Gessen, Russia's anti-gay laws have prompted an exodus of gay citizens, as well as their advocates. This only exacerbates the country's appartent desire "to shut down intellectually," and cost the country potentially vital intellectual capital. Thus, while the short term costs of losing "sister city" partnerships may be small, in the words of The Atlantic, "They are losing their future."


Russian Paratroopers Attack Lone Gay Rights Activist Protesting in St. Petersburg: VIDEO

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Gay rights activist Kirill Kalugin was attacked in St. Petersburg today while staging a one-man protest of Russia's anti-gay law. Reuters reports that "the former servicemen were gathered in central St. Petersburg to celebrate Russian Paratroopers Day, an annual holiday for the Russian airborne troops celebrated since the Soviet era days."

Watch a video of the attack, AFTER THE JUMP...

According to the Russian LGBT Network two of the attackers were detained by police and the activist, thankfully, got out unharmed.

RussianlgbtAnimal NY has translation:

“What are you doing here on Airborne Army Day?”

“I am picketing,” he says, trying to keep on his feet while being manhandled by the group.

“Well, we do not agree with this and ask you to stop this sort of action and your one-man picket.” They begin to push him around. He falls.

“Oh, look he slipped and fell. Don’t do that,” the soldier says, performatively at the journalists trying to get closer. The man is visibly frightened as the soldiers form a chain around him and began to chant, smacking their fists into their palms.

“CALL THE POLICE ON HIM,” someone jeer. “STAND RIGHT THERE,” a few yell. The police arrive (blue shirts, police hats) and attempt to drag the man out of the circle, so the soldiers move closer, block their access and pushing the cops.

“What were you thinking, showing up at the Palace Square, faggot?” the leader yells.

“You guys are animals,” the protestor rasps, while another soldier chokes him and shakes him by his neck. As the cops try to remove the illegally protesting young man, the soldiers start shoving them and throwing punches. In the next shot, they encircle the police vehicle — “We’re not going to let them fucking move anywhere.” — after their leader tries to get into the cruiser and drag the protestor out, yelling, “Why are you defending him?!”

The police begin putting the soldiers in detention vehicles and chaos breaks out, and then they begin attacking members of the media, who are their observing Kalugin's protest, Animal reports:

“We don’t stand by your provocations,” they scream at the car. Then, the drunken leader proceeds to rant at the camera about the “evil darkness” of “the bitches” in Russia and how bothered “we, normal human men” are by their sheer existence. “This is evil. Putin is fag and the rest of it is all shit. They entire country is on its knees. We are Russians! We are working!” In the background, a soldier screams at a cop, “Why are you not ticketing the faggot parade?”

Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Russian Legislator Urges Putin To Enforce Gay Ban During The Olympics

Vitaly Valentinovich Milonov
At a legislative meeting in St. Petersburg, co-author of Russia's bill banning homosexuality Vitaly Valentinovich Milonov urged President Putin to not suspend the law during the Sochi Olympics, claiming that doing so would be "selective enforcement." This runs directly counter to the International Olympic Committe's assertions that athletes and spectators would be exempt from the gay ban law. According to Milonov,

[I]f a law has been approved by the federal legislature and signed by the president, then the government has no right to suspend it. It doesn’t have the authority.

The timing of the gay ban is going to be problematic for Russia. If it makes an exemption for the spectators and athletes of the Olympics, it undermines the "necessity" of the law and implies that "corruption of children and traditional values" are sometimes ok. If the law is strictly enforced, then it's only a matter of when - not if - spectators and athletes are arrested and deported, which would spark resentments and even possibly incite an international incident.


LA, Chicago Urged to Dump Their Russian 'Sister-Cities' Over Russia's Criminalization of Gay Rights

In response to Russia's new anti-gay propaganda law, both Los Angeles and Chicago have been urged by LGBT supporters to drop their sister cities of St. Petersburg and Moscow respectively.

Screen Shot 2013-07-30 at 3.51.34 PMEfforts to sever LA's ties to St. Petersburg have been ongoing for quite some time. Back in February, Los Angeles City Council introduced a resolution that would have severed the city's symbolic relationship with Russia, Frontiers LA reports:

"The passing of this resolution sends a strong message that the city will not tolerate discrimination against our LGBT brothers and sisters in a sister city relationship,' openly gay City Councilmember Bill Rosendahl said in introducing his resolution on Feb. 12. 'We must stand together and continue to fight for our basic civil and human rights for all human beings on this earth."

Left unsaid in City Hall that day was the possibility - albeit perhaps a remote possibility - that the severing or even suspension of ties to St. Petersburg by the City of Los Angeles would send a resounding message of support for LGBT human rights from the ninth most economically powerful city in the world that other cities could use as cover to also sever ties.

St-petersburg-russiaWhile the resolution unfortunately failed to move out of committee in April, activists hope the new media attention being brought to the issue will help reignite the campaign. Additionally, a Change.org petition asking L.A. to sever ties with St. Petersburg has gathered over 2,000 signatures.    

Meanwhile, Equality Illinois has called on Chicago to end its relationship with Moscow.

From the statement:

"As the state's oldest and largest advocacy organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Illinoisans, we believe that it cannot be business as usual in Illinois' relations with Russia until that country's oppressive laws are reversed and gays are not targeted for oppression," said Bernard Cherkasov, CEO of Equality Illinois.

"From many small but meaningful steps, a national and then an international consensus will grow and ultimately, we believe, force Russia to change its behavior toward its gay citizens and visitors," Cherkasov said.

Previously, "Reykjavik Mayor Wants to Cut City's Ties with Moscow Over Russian Capital's Stance on Gay Rights" [tlrd]


Lansing, MI May Cut Ties With St. Petersburg Over Anti-Gay Policies

Lansing Lansing, Michigan is currently listed as the "sister-city" to St. Petersburg, Russia. That may change soon, however, if Russia continues its intolerance of LGBT citizens and foreigners. BeaumontEnterprise.com is reporting that the Lansing City Council discussed ending their relationship with the Russian sister-city late Monday night, and plan to "take up a resolution soon". 

The issue was raised late last week by Councilwoman Jody Washington, who condemned Russia's new anti-gay laws, as well as the arrests of both citizens and foreign tourists that followed. "We need to say we do not tolerate this, we do not accept this." Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero also called the actions "abhorrent", but also maintained that diplomacy must be tried before resorting to such measures. 

According to Beaumont Enterprise...

"The city's relationship with one district of St. Petersburg formally began in 1994 with a youth exchange program but fell dormant after political and geographic districts of St. Petersburg were changed several years ago. The Sister Cities Commission's goal is to promote community understanding and appreciation of other cultures in hopes of creating a more peaceful world. Lansing has five other sister cities around the globe, as well as 'friendship cities' with which it has ties."

The Associated Press has sent a request for comment to Russian embassy in the U.S. Said request currently remains unanswered.


Vladimir Putin Signs Law Banning Promotion Of 'Homosexual Propaganda'

PutinIt's a sad day for our LGBT brothers and sisters in Russia. Today, President Vladimir Putin signed into law the disgusting bill banning the promotion of "homosexual propaganda" among minors. RIA Novosti reports:

Gay propaganda with the use of mass media or Internet resources will see harsher penalties of 50,000-100,000 rubles ($1,520-3,050) for individuals, 100,000-200,000 rubles ($3,050-6,115) for officials and 1 million rubles or 90-day suspension for legal entities.

While the law's proponents argue it is aimed at protecting children from harmful influences, critics allege the move is part of a broader crackdown on Russia's gay community.  

Even before the law's passage, international human rights organizations had publicly expressed their concerns that the antigay bill will be used to target openly LGBT Olympians at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

Putin, meanwhile, attempted to downplay accusations of antigay bigotry by claiming sexual minorities are "full fledged members of our society and are not being discriminated against in any way." Putin should tell that to the dozens of gay rights supporters who were arrested at a bloody clash in St. Petersburg yesterday.


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