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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, September 6 2013 - Volume 41 Issue 36
Love always wins! - Activists join to protest Russian consul in Seattle
Section One
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Love always wins! - Activists join to protest Russian consul in Seattle

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

On Tuesday, September 3, with bullhorn in hand, I headed toward Madison Beach to join hundreds of protesters participating in the Out.org call for a global response to Russian President Vladimir Putin and the countrys so-called Gay propaganda laws.

The protesters message was simple: Love Always Wins.

Global Speak Out events were held worldwide one day before Western leaders meet with President Vladimir Putin at the G20 Summit in St. Petersburg, Russia.

I have to give kudos to All Out because they truly did help organize a global speakout for Russia. Events took place in more than 30 cities around the world, including Rome, Sydney, Buenos Aires, and, of course, Seattle.

In Seattle, my organization, Social Outreach Seattle, joined with Equal Rights Washington, Dan Savage and the Dump Stoli Vodka campaign, The Seattle Lesbian, Seattle Gay News, and others, to protest in front of the residence of the Russian Consul General (3726 E. Madison St.).

The Global Speak Out event was endorsed by LGBT organizations worldwide, including All Out, GLAAD, the Human Rights Campaign, the Peter Tatchell Foundation in Great Britain, Queer Nation New York, BoycottRussianVodka.com, LGBT Solidarity Day San Francisco, and many others.

DRIVERS HONK IN SUPPORT
Participants showed up at the Seattle event, held from 4 to 6 p.m., with signs, messages of love, and an energy that made for an electrifying demonstration. We asked passersby in cars to honk and show support and I think it is a fair observation to say that at least every other driver honked and waved. The message is clear that, at least in the Pacific Northwest, the discriminatory Russian Gay Propaganda law is not favored.

These laws that have been passed in Russia must be repealed, said Dan Savage, Gay rights advocate and editorial director of The Stranger. The world is not going to stand silently by while LGBT people are brutalized in Russia.

Because of these laws, in Russia people have been arrested for being out. Some who have held up rainbow flags in public have been beaten by mobs and then arrested.

There is a vigilante campaign where LGBT people are being solicited online for public meetings and once they get there, are kidnapped, brutalized, assaulted on video, said Savage.

DECLINES INTERVIEW
Consul General Andrey Yushmanov declined an invitation to talk with SGN, but he did send an e-mail to KUOW producer Hannah Burn along with an attached document, About LGBT Legislation In Russia, with no stated author.

I regret that due to my schedule I cannot participate in your program, wrote Yushmanov. Nevertheless, I hope that some facts set forth in attachments could be helpful for objective and unprejudiced discussion on a topic that often used toward some political ends rather than to present the public with an objective picture of to-days Russia.

There are a lot of attempts to use the adoption in Russia of a law that bans propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations among children to portray our country as non-tolerant towards LGBT community, he said. That is simply not true. The overall spirit of tolerance towards LGBT-individuals in Russia is well reflected in an article by Austin Ruse, President of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, published in The Daily Caller on 7/8/2013.

As to the value of protests, I believe they can bring changes only if theyre honest and sincere and not misleading people. There is a flyer calling the people of Seattle to make some noise and show ... support for Russian queers in front of our Consulate next week, he said. Obviously based on wrong facts it seems to be just some noise and waste of time. Indeed there seems to be more sense in the calls to ban Vodka - reduction of alcohol consumption is anyway better.

RUSSIANS JOIN PROTEST
In Russia, along St. Petersburgs main thoroughfare, about a dozen human rights activists staged individual protests to attract the attention of leaders of the world's biggest economies to human rights violations in Russia.

Activist Iosiph Skakovsky told the Associated Press they held individual protests because mass protests are often banned or disrupted by police.

Natalya Tsymbalova was protesting discrimination of sexual minorities, falsification of elections, pressure on NGOs, violation of the freedom of public assembly.

Her handmade poster said that Russian President Vladimir Putin's claim that Gays are not discriminated against was a lie. There is discrimination. Speak out for Russia!

Police checked the documents of individual protesters but did not interfere in their actions.

Activists were invited to meet with President Barack Obama on the sidelines of this week's Group of 20 summit in Russia.

Obama and his administration have voiced concern over a law recently passed by Russia's parliament that targets homosexual propaganda.

Igor Kochetkov of LGBT Network told AP that his organization accepted the invitation to meet with Obama in St. Petersburg on Thursday. The St. Petersburg-based advocacy group Coming Out said it also was invited but hadnt decided whether to go.

The White House would not comment on the meeting, but Obama has frequently met with civil society groups when traveling abroad. In 2009, he met with a group of human rights activists while visiting Russia, but members of the LGBT community were not present.

MORE LAWS PENDING
This week, Deputy Alexei Zhuravlyov of the Russian Duma (Parliament) proposed amendments to the Family Code that will make non-traditional sexual orientation a basis for denying custody of children. Other grounds include alcoholism, drug use, and a history of violence, insanity, and/or abuse.

In the case when a parent has sexual contact with people of their own gender, the damage that can be inflicted on the psyche of a child is enormous, Zhuravlyov, the author of the bill, wrote in his proposal to the Duma.

Claiming that five to seven percent of people in Russia were of a non-traditional sexual orientation, Zhuravlyov wants to ban homosexual propaganda not only in the public realm, but also in the family, according to Gay Star News.

Recent comparisons to Nazi Germany are becoming disturbingly more accurate. The child custody bill would be the third law limiting the rights of LGBT people this year alone. In June, the Duma unanimously passed the federal anti-Gay propaganda law, followed by another law - also passed unanimously - banning adoptions from countries that have marriage equality.

Elena Mizulina, who sponsored the propaganda bill, accused the West of aggressively imposing its social conduct on Russia with its fetishizing of human rights, including those of sexual minorities.

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