8-29-2013By Innokenty Grekov
Fighting Discrimination Program
When we called on President Barack Obama to press Russia on its antigay law, we weren’t expecting him to do so for the first time on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. His words were welcome, but wouldn’t it be better if he addresses the Russian people directly—on Russian TV?
The G20 Summit next week in St. Petersburg provides the perfect platform to make clear that America stands with Russia’s LGBT citizens. St. Petersburg passed one of the original local bans on gay “propaganda,” and the city is also home to prominent gay rights groups.
Our recent report, Convenient Targets: The Anti-”Propoganda” Law & the Threat to LGBT Rights in Russia, details how Russia has ramped up its crackdown on dissent, including against LGBT persons. This includes a 100-year ban on gay pride marches in Moscow, denial of registration to Sochi Pride House, hefty fines to rights groups accused of acting as a “foreign agent,” and, more recently, a federal law banning the “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations to minors.” Against this backdrop, harassment and violent attacks on gays or those perceived as gay have become commonplace.
President Obama made LGBT rights a priority in U.S. foreign policy. Russian gay rights advocates praised President Obama’s speech in Berlin when he said, “When we stand up for our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters … we defend our own liberty as well.” But the Russian public didn’t hear about that remark because state-run media censors “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations.” The message is clear: calling for tolerance or equality in Russia is punishable by law.
At the G20 Summit, the President must continue to stand for equality and make clear to the Russian people that gay rights are human rights.
Human Rights First