LGBT group asks Charlotte to cut ties with Russian sister city

Group sends letter to mayor and City Council, launches petition; says recent attacks and legislation has made Russia unsafe for LGBT people

by Matt Comer  Editor  editor@goqnotes.com
Published: August 2, 2013 in News

A still from a YouTube video showing altercations between gay protesters and anti-gay counter-protesters in Charlotte's Russian sister city, Voronezh, on Jan. 20, 2013.

A still from a YouTube video showing altercations between gay protesters and anti-gay counter-protesters in Charlotte’s Russian sister city, Voronezh, on Jan. 20, 2013.

Update (Aug. 6, 2013, 9:54 a.m.): Charlotte City Councilmember LaWana Mayfield condemns Russian anti-LGBT legislation but says dropping Russian sister city sends wrong message, activists should focus on more productive action.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Mecklenburg LGBT Political Action Committee is asking Mayor Patsy Kinsey and City Council to sever the city’s sister-city relationship with Voronezh, Russia. The advocates say the nation’s so-called gay propaganda legislation has put LGBT people there in danger. They also cite recent attacks on LGBT people, including a January attack on 14 activists in Voronezh.

“I am writing to you today to raise awareness of the anti-gay activities that are taking place in Charlotte’s Russian sister city, Voronezh and across Russia,” MeckPAC Chair Scott Bishop said in a letter sent to Kinsey and Council today. “If you are not aware, Russian parliament recently passed legislation that bars the public discussion of gay rights and relationships anywhere children might hear it. As reported by CNN, “Human Rights Watch described the anti-gay propaganda law as ‘a profoundly discriminatory and dangerous bill that is bound to worsen homophobia in Russia.’ Under the guise of protecting children, it will infringe on people’s rights to free expression and discriminate against Russia’s LGBT community, it said, as the bill was being debated.”

Bishop also cited a Jan. 20, 2013, attack in Voronezh, where some 1,500 people attacked 14 gay rights activists. Some reports have said the attacks were initiated by nationalist and Russian Orthodox counter-protesters.

Bishop’s group has also launched a public petition.

The controversy over Russia’s law has resulted in increased calls for boycotts of Russian products and the upcoming 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. Gay activists in the U.S. are urging gay bars to dump Russian-made vodka. The City of Los Angeles, whose sister city is St. Petersburg — where the nation’s anti-gay legislation originated — is being asked to drop its sister-city relationship.

Voronezh, Russia, is located to the country’s southeast and five hours south of Moscow.

qnotes has reached out for comment from Kinsey and other Council members.