Rainbow for Russia

08/21/2013 12:32 pm4 commentsViews: 30

LOS ANGELES (CNS) – City Council members and gay rights advocates
unveiled a gay pride flag outside City Hall today to protest anti-gay laws
enacted in Russia, including St. Petersburg, a sister city to Los Angeles.
The council also unanimously approved a resolution urging the federal
government to give asylum to people persecuted in Russia based on their sexual
orientation or gender identification.
The resolution, authored by openly gay Councilmen Mitch O’Farrell and
Mike Bonin, calls on President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry
“to take action to end the persecution, abuse and murder of gays around the
world, including but not limited to making strong, public and international
statements condemning such persecution and exerting all necessary pressure on
governments to take action.”
Bonin said there is “untold oppression and discrimination happening
right now, today, in the former Soviet Union, in Russia, in the city of St.
Petersburg and elsewhere.”
Councilman Tom LaBonge, who oversees Los Angeles’ participation in the
international sister city program, joined Bonin and O’Farrell in unveiling a
rainbow flag hanging from the Sister City Monument “street sign” pointed in
the direction of St. Petersburg.
Bonin said the council members hope the rainbow flag, which “signifies
the history, the dignity and the power of the LGBT community,” will “send a
message to Russia, with love,” and let gay people being persecuted in that
country know that Angelenos “heard their plight.”
“We’ve got their backs,” he said.
Russian laws banning “propaganda” in support of same-sex orientation –
whether it is public speech or gay pride festivals — first took root in St.
Petersburg.
Earlier this month, local operators of gay bars poured liquid from
Russian-branded vodka bottles into gutters as part of a boycott, and groups
called on athletes to boycott the Sochi 2014 Olympics in Russia.
O’Farrell, addressing calls from gay activists to suspend Los Angeles’
St. Petersburg sister city relationship, said “severing ties at this time will
also sever any chance of making a difference there.”
The sister city relationship should serve as “vehicle to encourage,
cajole and pressure Russian leaders into doing what is right by civilized
society,” O’Farrell said.
The sister city program has facilitated cultural exchanges between Los
Angeles and St. Petersburg since 1989, according to¬†Councilmen Mitch O’Farrell
“Our brothers and sisters in St. Petersburg … need to know that here
in Los Angeles, we support all people, whoever they are,” he said.
The sister city program was started almost 60 years ago by President
Dwight D. Eisenhower “to encourage people-to-people citizen diplomacy, and I’m
proud to use our relationship to stand up for what is right,” LaBonge said.
James Gilliam, deputy executive director for the ACLU of Southern
California, said the group is asking mayors across the country, including Mayor
Eric Garcetti, to sign a petition condemning “anti-gay laws the LGBT community
in St. Petersburg is being forced to live under.”
“Los Angeles’ sister city relationship with St. Petersburg compels us
to speak out to let all Angelenos — particularly the LGBT community — know
that the City of Angels is a model and a leader in advancing the rights of LGBT
individuals,” he said.
The L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center has also established a fund to support gay
advocates in Russia. Donations can be made at lagaycenter.org.
“This is just the first of a few actions we’re developing with L.A.
city leaders to call attention to human rights abuses against LGBT Russians.
There is more we can do and will do to help end the country’s draconian anti-
gay laws,” Darrel Cummings, the center’s chief of staff, said.

Rainbow flag flys under St Petersburgs sign at LA's Sister City Monument. Photo By Gary McCarthy / Los Angeles Independent

Rainbow flag flys under St Petersburgs sign at LA’s Sister City Monument.
Photo By Gary McCarthy / Los Angeles Independent

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