Open Letter to President Putin on Russia’s Discriminatory Anti-LGBT Laws
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November 15, 2013
Dear President Putin:
Like many of our generation, we have applauded Russia’s 20-year turn toward democracy, confident in the prospect it lays not only for closer relations between our countries, but for the freer and more prosperous future that the Russian people deserve. In that light, we write to express grave concern at recent legislation – signed by you into law, or otherwise under consideration in the Duma – that demonizes and discriminates against Russian citizens who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT).
These laws are tearing apart the lives of Russian LGBT citizens and their families. They also impact Russian and foreign citizens, organizations and businesses that want the best for your country, and that are committed to building partnerships that are in your interests.
The range of legislation to which we refer is broad; among other things, it restricts public gatherings; classifies as “foreign agents” those who receive funding from abroad; denies orphaned and abandoned children the opportunity to be brought up in families by individuals with the commitment, the resources, and the love needed to raise them; and makes it a crime to speak openly or provide information about homosexuality. We are also extremely concerned about pending legislation that threatens to remove children from same-sex parents – the homes they’ve known, the families they love.
These discriminatory, anti-LGBT laws call into question the democratic path that Russia ostensibly has chosen. They disregard the obligation carried by all democratic societies to respect and protect minority populations of any kind. And they deny not only the promise of equality under the law, but the fundamental freedoms of speech, assembly, and association that are core to any democratic system.
Advancing the Human Rights of LGBT Persons in Europe and Beyond
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Repost from DipNote
by Uzra Zeya, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
I was honored to represent the United States government at the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA) Europe’s Annual Conference, held in Zagreb, Croatia yesterday. Before an audience of more than 250 activists from 45 countries across Europe, I affirmed the strong U.S. commitment to advance the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) persons in Europe and beyond. While noting some positive developments in Europe, such as anti-discrimination and hate crime measures, I also expressed deep concern about negative trends in a number of countries in the region. The Anti-Gay Propaganda law in Russia, for example, has led to an increase in harassment and violence targeting LGBT persons. Similar laws have been proposed or are being discussed in other European countries. And we heard at ILGA how such laws validate discrimination and lead to an increase in violence and intimidation.
Corporate Concerns About Russia's Anti-LGBT Laws
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Russia’s ongoing spate of laws that discriminate against LGBT Russians reflects poorly on Russia’s understanding of, and commitment to, democratic norms and universal human rights obligations. This, of course, is the Council’s primary focus.
However, Russia’s anti-LGBT laws also directly threaten Russia’s own interests. They impede travel and tourism – by gay and transgender foreigners, yes, but also by those who worry about Russia’s commitment to the rule of law. They undermine citizen-to-citizen exchanges – so vital to the breadth and strength of bilateral ties. And they harm the ability of American and multinational companies operating in Russia to take logical, efficient business decisions to allow them to grow in mutually productive ways.
The Facts on LGBT Rights in Russia
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In recent months, public attention to the ongoing crackdown on LGBT rights in the Russian Federation and its potential impact on the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia in February 2014 has increased significantly. President Obama addressed the issue on the Tonight Show, saying:
“I think Putin and Russia have a big stake in making sure the Olympics work, and I think they understand that for most of the countries that participate in the Olympics, we wouldn’t tolerate gays and lesbians being treated differently. They’re athletes, they’re there to compete. And if Russia wants to uphold the Olympic spirit, then every judgment should be made on the track, or in the swimming pool, or on the balance beam, and people’s sexual orientation shouldn’t have anything to do with it.” – President Obama
This fact sheet summarizes the developments in Russia and the guidance that we have received to date from our colleagues in Russia.
LGBT People Are Being Targeted by Anti-LGBT Propaganda and Foreign Agents Laws
Following the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia liberalized some of its anti-LGBT laws. Most notably, homosexual relationships were decriminalized in 1993. Transgender Russians have also been allowed to change their legal gender on identity documents since 1997, although there are many obstacles to the process and invasive surgical requirements remain in place. Despite these liberalization trends during the immediate post-Soviet period, in recent years, Russian authorities have routinely denied permits for Pride parades, intimidated and arrested LGBT activists and condoned anti-LGBT statements by government officials. ILGA-Europe, the European section of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, rates Russia as the least protective country in Europe for LGBT citizens, ranking it 49th out of the 49 European countries rated in its annual survey.
In June 2013, the Russian duma in Moscow passed a new law banning the “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relationships”to minors. The new federal law is closely related to several regional laws that were already on the books, all of which seek to penalize “propaganda” of homosexuality, generally with the intent of “protecting” minors. The city of Sochi, which is the site of the upcoming Winter Olympics, has one of those regional laws in place. And while the regional laws are not uniform, like the new federal law, they all tend to advance vague definitions of propaganda that lend themselves to the targeting and ongoing persecution of the country’s LGBT community. The language of this new law focuses on “non-traditional” sexual relationships, to contrast with “traditional values” or “traditional family” language that Russia is promoting at the UN to oppose positive statements supporting the human rights of LGBT people.
LGBT Groups Applaud Naming of Ambassador Susan Rice and Samantha Power to New Posts
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Mark Bromley, Council Chair, 202-719-0511 x12
Jessica Stern, Executive Director, International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, 917-355-3262
June 5, 2013 – The Council for Global Equality and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) applaud President Obama’s decision to name Ambassador Susan Rice, who currently serves as the United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations, as his new national security adviser and to nominate Samantha Power, a longtime friend of the human rights community, to take her place as the next U.S. Ambassador to the UN.
Mark Bromley, Chair of the Council for Global Equality, said: “We were pleased to honor Ambassador Rice with our Global Equality Award last year in recognition of her leadership and stalwart support for LGBT rights at the United Nations. And the announcement today was certainly a double hit, as Samantha Power, who was nominated to take her place and serve as our next UN Ambassador, has been a great friend of LGBT rights – and of human rights for all – at the White House. We couldn’t think of two stronger LGBT allies in the foreign policy world.”
Serious Human Rights Abuses Directed at LGBT Populations in Every Region
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The State Department’s latest country human rights reports, released April 19, confirm the lack of respect that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people face in many areas of the world. However, the reports also point to a range of serious human rights abuses directed at LGBT populations in every region.
The Obama Administration has made a commendable effort to catalog instances and trends of LGBT abuse worldwide. We were pleased that Secretary Kerry specifically lauded the Department’s expanded coverage of LGBT rights in a speech marking the release of this year’s reports.
Pressure Builds on Ukraine to Reject Anti-LGBT Legislation
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For Immediate Release
Mark Bromley - Council Chair, 202-719-0511 x12,
Julie Dorf - Sr. Advisor, 202-719-0511 x13,
Washington, DC – March 13, 2013 –The Council for Global Equality applauds the 62 members of the U.S. Congress, who yesterday, called on Chairman Rybak of Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada, urging the country to refrain from passing pending anti-gay laws. These so-called “Homosexual Propaganda” laws clearly violate basic freedoms of assembly, speech, and press, with criminal sanctions of up to six years in prison for positive media portrayals of same-sex relationships or public gatherings for LGBT rights.
The bipartisan letter was led by Congressman Eric Swalwell of California who stated: “Ukraine in recent decades has made significant strides and commitments to human rights, but these bills threaten to create an environment that condones state-sanctioned discrimination against LGBT people. This is a clear violation of the fundamental freedoms that both of our countries respect and I urge the parliament to reject both of these bills.”
LGBT Americans Traveling Abroad
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Updated Forms for LGBT Families
This year the Bureau of Consular Affairs is focusing on family travel, and this includes LGBT families. Updated forms for parents applying for a child's passport (DS-11 form) have been released. The Bureau has also redesigned the Consular Report of Birth Abroad (CRBA). Both of these forms were updated to provide a gender-neutral description of parents that recognizes the many types of family structures, including same-sex parents.
The Council for Global Equality honors Ambassador Susan E. Rice, with the 2012 Global Equality Leadership Award
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Photo: Noah Devereaux
October 10, 2012 – The Council for Global Equality honored Ambassador Susan E. Rice, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, with its 2012 Global Equality Leadership Award at a reception this evening at the home of Mitch Draizin and Fritz Brugere-Trelat. The award recognizes U.S. leadership in support of LGBT equality in the United States and abroad. Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin was the last award recipient.
The Council for Global Equailty to Honor Ambassador Susan E. Rice
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The Council for Global equality is proud to announce the selection of, Ambassador Susan E. Rice, Permanent Representative to the United Nations, as the recipient of the 2012 Global Equality Leadership Award.
Across her tenure, Ambassador Rice has spoken eloquently to the principle that, like all minorities, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people worldwide are entitled to the same protections, respect and rights accorded to others. Under her leadership, the United States joined the UN General Assembly in condemning violence, harassment, and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and led in restoring sexual orientation to a keystone UN human rights resolution against extrajudicial executions. By directing the full force of U.S. diplomacy to that issue, Ambassador Rice helped put LGBT rights on the UN agenda with an unprecedented new appeal to all countries in all regions of the world.