Arkhangelsk Tosses Antigay “Propaganda” Law
Washington, D.C. – Following news that Arkhangelsk, Russia, has overturned its regional ban on antigay “propaganda,” Human Rights First is urging all jurisdictions within Russia to abandon anti-LGBT laws. The organization notes that Arkhangelsk’s law banning the “propaganda” of homosexuality was a precursor to federal legislation that has drawn worldwide attention as the Sochi Olympic Games approach. While the repeal of the regional laws may only be an administrative act to ensure compliance with the federal law, it does mean that should the federal law be overturned one day, there won’t be regional laws left intact.
“There are a number of activists who have been negatively impacted by the regional ban. We hope that this repeal is the first of many across Russia and urge the government to repeal the federal ban,” said Human Rights First’s Innokenty Grekov, who is traveling with Russian LGBT activists from Arkhangelsk who are in the United States to visit the Russian city’s U.S. sister city, Portland, Maine, as well as to lobby lawmakers in Washington, D.C. “The government needs to recognize the scope of the ‘unintended’ consequences of the legislation, which have included violence against LGBT persons and harassment, contributing to an environment in which anti-LGBT rhetoric and sentiment is the norm.”
Human Rights First calls on the U.S. government to keep up the pressure on Russian lawmakers to repeal the federal law. During his visit to St. Petersburg for the G20 Summit, President Obama met with a number of Russian activists where he expressed support for the work they are doing to combat these discriminatory policies. U.S. policymakers should continue to speak out on the issue, especially in the lead up to the Sochi Winter Olympics, where there will be ample opportunities for the press and international audiences to question Russia’s leadership on the world stage given these laws.
Human Rights First released a report in August 2013, Convenient Targets, which tracks the rise in regional anti-“propaganda” laws that spurred on federal legislation and includes recommendations for the U.S. government.
“We hope this is the first step in the right direction toward the federal ban’s repeal, and that the international community will continue appeal to Russia to repeal discriminatory laws, work with its civil society, and respect human rights and international obligations,” said Oleg Klyuenkov, one of the activists in United States this week.