Shropshire Star mocks PinkNews founder’s parents who campaigned in Russia against anti-gay laws

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

A local Shropshire paper has taken a side swipe at the parents of Benjamin Cohen, PinkNews founder, who recently staged an impromptu gay rights protest in the Russian city of St Petersburg, the birthplace of the country’s recently passed anti-gay laws.

The Shropshire Star has published a column by the writer Peter Rhodes, where he mocks Stephen Fry who called the protest “brave.”

He writes that “Bravery ain’t what it used to be,” adding that it’s “not exactly the Hungarian uprising.”

The following is a transcript of Mr Rhodes’s article, which is not currently published online:

Bravery ain’t what it used to be. A national newspaper devoted a big feature to Richard and Rochelle Cohen whose son runs a gay news website. On a cruise in St Petersburg, the Cohens took a pen and wrote a little A4 poster declaring “Gay OK!” They then took pictures of themselves holding it in the city. They didn’t write it in Russian and carefully avoided police, and admitted it was “only a little protest” against Russia’s anti-gay policies. For this act they have been lauded by the great national treasure Stephen Fry as “brave and good parents.” Not exactly the Hungarian Uprising, is it?

The “national newspaper” in question, the Sunday Times, published the original article on Richard and Rochelle Cohen’s campaign.

The photograph used was one out of a collection, showing Mr Cohen’s parents holding up a sign reading “Gay OK” – an action that is technically illegal following a change in Russian law.

President Vladimir Putin signed the law in June banning the promotion of “non-traditional relationships” toward minors, a move that has been criticised as part of a broader crackdown on Russia’s gay community.

Richard Cohen, who is the Chairman of MyLawyer and a Director of PinkNews said: “I’m extremely disappointed at the mocking tone of the Shropshire star’s column.

“I am well aware that our protest wasn’t the most daring piece of gay rights activism that anyone has ever taken part in. However, the point is that even us holding the A4 piece of paper that the newspaper mocked could be considered illegal in Russia because of its horrendous new anti-gay laws.”

Twitter user Mike Phillips, who found the item, also stated: “It’s by Peter Rhodes who doesn’t let a week go by without some anti gay remark.”

He also took a snapshot of the article:

You can contact world leaders to lobby them about the country’s laws by visiting

Peter Rhodes on previous occasions has come out against same-sex marriage laws. In one article he wrote: A reader has been bending my ear on the subject of what was once called gay marriage, then same-sex marriage and now appears to be known as ‘equal marriage.'”

He added: “But for the record, the latest thinking from Government lawyers in Whitehall is that equal marriage will require no act of consummation, and adultery will not be grounds for divorce – unless the adultery is with someone of the opposite sex. In what way is that equal? In what way is that marriage?”