Manchester Council calls on Russia’s St Petersburg to drop anti-gay laws

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Manchester City Council has urged St Petersburg to drop its homophobic censorship laws – but has confirmed that it won’t be severing ties with the Russian city.

Manchester is officially twinned with St Petersburg, and similar laws banning LGBT discussion and gay pride events were introduced at a federal level in Russia earlier this year.

More than 1,400 people have signed a petition urging Manchester City Council to drop its official twinned status with St Petersburg.

Several gay bars in Manchester, London and around the world have decided to boycott Russian vodka in a campaign against homophobia by the Russian state.

However, Andrew Gilliver, of the Manchester-based Lesbian and Gay Foundation (LGF), said the boycott was “good for raising awareness”, but stressed that his colleagues in St Petersburg wanted to “keep the dialogue channels open”.

Councillor Sue Murphy, deputy leader of Manchester City Council, said: “Our friendship with St Petersburg has lasted over 50 years and during that time we have made strong and lasting connections with its people. We have strong links with LGBT organisations in Russia, listening to their needs and offering our support.

“We currently are not severing those ties – but want to use our friendship as a powerful way to promote the message that equality is not something to be feared. We made the point at the highest level in St Petersburg that passing the anti-gay law would be wrong and we urged the governor to veto this ill-conceived piece of legislation.”

She added: “I will be writing to him again to express our concerns, and to say that we expect people’s human rights to be protected and respected. We remain resolute in our conviction and our stance on supporting gay rights.”