While on Friday we brought you the rather depressing news that anti-gay censorship has been deemed perfectly legal by Russia’s Constitutional Court, there are positive stories out there about people fighting Russia’s anti-gay laws. Here are five recent stories that caught our eye.
1. It Gets Better Launches Project to Help Russia’s LGBT Youth
The It Gets Better Project (IGB) recently announced it was starting a new campaign specifically aimed at empowering Russia’s young LGBTs. The campaign, led by IGB executive director Ted Farley, aims to reach out to Russia’s estimated 2.5million LGBT youth, bringing them hope in the midst of Russia’s climate of oppression with the simple message: You Are Beautiful.
“The It Gets Better Project hopes to reach the millions of LGBT youth in Russia to show they have international support against the outright discrimination happening across their country,” Farley is quoted as saying. “We want every gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individual to know they are beautiful, valued and important, and that their friends and allies in the international community are keeping a close eye on their situation while working to end such injustice.”
IGB is partnering with Europe’s largest social network, VKontakte, to connect Russian LGBT youth and the international LGBT community. Here’s the project video:
2. Elton John Rallies Russians to Support LGBTs
Elton John recently took a lot of heat for refusing to boycott his scheduled concerts in Russia. He defended that decision as his not wanting to abandon those who are opposed to the law.
During his Friday performance in Moscow, John announced he was dedicating his concert to Vladislav Tornovoi, a 23-year-old man who was tortured to death in May, in part because he was perceived to be gay. John also spoke directly to the crowd about Russia’s “homosexual propaganda” law, saying:
“You have always embraced me and you have never judged me. So I am deeply saddened and shocked over the current legislation that is now in place against the LGBT community here in Russia. In my opinion, it is inhumane and it is isolating. Some people have demanded that because of this legislation, I must not come here to Russia. But many, many more people asked me to come and I listened to them. I love coming here.
I want to show them and the world that I care and that I don’t believe in isolating people. Music is a very powerful thing. It brings people together irrespective of their age, their race, their sexuality, or their religion. It does not discriminate. Look around you tonight. You see men, women, young and old, gay and straight. Thousands of happy Russian people enjoying the music. We’re all here together in harmony, and harmony is what makes a happy family and a strong society.
The spirit we share tonight is what builds a future of equality, love and compassion for my children and for your children. Please don’t leave it behind when you leave tonight. Each and every one of you, please, keep this spirit in your life and in your heart. I wish you love and peace and health and happiness.
3. Germany’s Prime Minister Chooses to Boycott the Sochi Olympics
Germany’s Prime Minister Jochim Gauk has reportedly said he will not attend the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympic and Paralympic games as a response to Russia’s devolving human rights situation. He has previously and very publicly criticized Russia’s human rights abuses as an “air of imperialism,” among other barbs.
While interesting in itself, it does appear to throw down the gauntlet to other heads of state and high profiled representatives to at least contextualize why they will choose to go to the games.
4. U.S. Investors Pressure Olympics Sponsors to Address Russia’s Anti-LGBT Laws
A group of U.S. investors have issued a statement demanding that the sponsors behind the Sochi 2014 Olympics speak out and directly address Russia’s anti-gay laws.
“Taking a stand against these prejudicial laws and policies is not just the right thing to do, it protects shareholder interests and corporate reputations,” New York State Controller Thomas DiNapoli is quoted as saying in a letter to Sochi sponsors. He is joined by 20 other investment fund heads and groups managing a total of $327 billion in assets. The group want sponsors like Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Panasonic, Samsung and Procter & Gamble to issue more than just lukewarm “we don’t support discrimination” statements that have so far been trotted out.
5. American Apparel and Athlete Ally Team up to Support LGBT Athletes
Concerns have been raised for athletes heading to the Sochi 2014 games, particularly because people are still being actively prosecuted under the national propaganda ban despite assurances that the law would not be used during the games — something that the Olympic governing body the IOC readily accepted.
Now, advocacy group Athlete Ally has teamed up with American Apparel to create merchandise to support LGBT athletes going to Russia for next year’s games and the wider LGBT community. The campaign is called Principle 6 after the provision in the Olympic charter that expressly forbids discrimination, saying:
“The goal of the Olympic Movement is to contribute to building a peaceful and better world by educating youth through sport practiced without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.”
Bonus: The Care2 Community
Nearly 47,500 people have signed a Care2 petition created by Care2 user Ellen B that demands the IOC take steps to protect LGBT athletes — that’s just a few thousand away from the 50,000 goal. If you’ve signed already, thank you! You are making a difference. If you haven’t signed or shared the petition yet, please consider doing so here.