Christine Quinn: President Obama must stop Russia from attacking its LGBT citizens

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Christine Quinn, the gay Democratic candidate who’s vying to become the next mayor of New York City has urged President Obama to take a stand against Russia’s continued oppression of its LGBT citizens.

In an open letter signed by several other elected LGBT New York City officials, she said: “Given that President Putin and Russia have enacted laws to criminalise gay people and supporters and deny human rights to their LGBT citizens, they should not be the beneficiary of any trip by your office until they fully restore all civil rights to LGBT people in their country.”

President Obama and aides have discussed a trip to the Russian capital in September to meet with President Putin, but that prospect is very much in doubt now that Russia has granted temporary asylum to National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden.

In her letter, Ms Quinn states there is also a human rights reason for President Obama to reconsider the trip.

“Recent actions taken by the Russian Government have led LGBT citizens to face not only a society that is intolerant of their basic civil rights, but also a country that would imprison them for declaring support for their own fundamental rights as humans,” she said. “This has promoted an atmosphere of hate where gay people fear for their own lives and safety.

“Police are allowed to arrest foreigners who are considered gay or pro-gay and detain them for up to 14 days. Under their new law, as a pro-gay supporter even you could be subject to arrest and imprisonment while in Russia.

Ms Quinn added: “Mr President, you will remember that in December 2011 the White House released a presidential memorandum directing executive officers and agencies that deal in foreign affairs to address human rights abuses against LGBT people abroad and to pressure foreign governments to decriminalise homosexuality.

“Now it is time for you and your administration to directly act on this memorandum. The LGBT community and its allies in Russia are under attack and the victims of clear human rights abuses. We urge you to stand in solidarity with us. Refuse any diplomatic mission to Russia until President Putin stops these abuses now and agrees to make Russia a country that proudly supports its LGBT community and its allies worldwide. We expect nothing less.”

Ms Quinn, who is the Speaker of New York City Council, is the latest high-profile US politician to raise concerns about what is happening in Russia.

Last week, Massachusetts Senator Edward Markey condemned the Russian Government for presiding over “hateful” legislation. 

The UK’s Foreign Office also said it was alarmed by the “growing restrictions on LGBT freedoms in Russia”.

At the end of June, Russia’s President Putin signed into law a federal ban on LGBT expression.

In the same month UK Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg urged Russia to protect the rights of LGBT people amid concerns about LGBT athletes and spectators attending the 2014 Winter Olympics in the Russian city of Sochi.

Over the past month members of the LGBT community in Britain and around the world have urged for a boycott of products from Russia – most notably vodka – in order to highlight the deteriorating legal and security situation of LGBT in the country.

However, the Russian LGBT Network, campaigner Nikolai Alekseev and gay US former Olympic diver Greg Louganis believe a boycott is counter-productive.