Manchester appeals to St Petersburg
Publish Date: 06/03/2012
Last week lawmakers in Russia’s second city St. Petersburg’s passed a law aimed at eliminating what they call the “propaganda” of homosexuality. This week Manchester speaks out in support of its twin cities’ LGBT communities.
The new law defines ‘propaganda’ of homosexuality as “the targeted and uncontrolled dissemination of generally accessible information capable of harming the health and moral and spiritual development of minors,” particularly that which could create “a distorted impression” of “marital relations” This appears to be a reaction to efforts by gay rights groups in St. Petersburg and Moscow to attract attention to the issue.
Igor Kochetkov, the head of the Russian L.G.B.T. Network, a rights group based in St. Petersburg said the law was ‘absurd’ and commented: “Even if someone wanted to, no amount of propaganda is going to turn a heterosexual gay.” http://www.lgbtnet.ru/eng/
“This is a law that can be used, and will be used, to conduct searches of organizations and prevent public actions,” he said. “Most importantly, it will be used for official propaganda. Officially homosexuality will be considered illegal, something incorrect and something that cannot be discussed with children. It will create a negative atmosphere in society around gays and lesbians as well as our organizations.”
The new law is expected to face no opposition from St. Petersburg’s governor, who must sign it within the next two weeks before it can take effect.
A Critical Friend
As the city of Manchester is twinned with Europe’s fourth largest city and has enjoyed long standing friendship links with St. Petersburg it is important that officials try to use their relationship with their Russian colleagues to make the clear point that the law is wrong. This is exactly what Manchester City Council is currently doing.
Fulfilling a long standing engagement, representatives from Manchester City Council are meeting with the Governor of St.Petersburg this week to urge him to veto the offending Bill.
Councillor Sue Murphy, deputy leader of Manchester City Council, said: "Our friendship with St Petersburg is one that has lasted 50 years, and we consider it an honour to have such a close and enduring relationship with Russia's second city.
Our ties with the people of St Petersburg are strong and the friendship has stood the test of time. When you have been friends for so long - whether it be a person or a city - it gives you the right to point out when your friend is doing something wrong.
This bill is simply wrong. It is bad for LGBT people living in the city, and it is bad for St Petersburg's reputation across the globe. This trip gives us the opportunity to make this point clearly at the highest level in St Petersburg - before it is too late. We will urge the governor to veto this ill-conceived piece of legislation.
Manchester has a deserved reputation as one of the most tolerant and open cities in the world. That has done our city nothing but good. It encourages tourism and investment; it means that people come to Manchester to make our city their home. It aids cohesion and brings all of our communities closer together. We're rightly proud of our gay rights record and hope the governor will listen to us and reject this dreadful piece of legislation.
Our message is simple - equality is not something anyone should fear.
During this visit we will also meet with LGBT leaders in the city, presenting a letter of solidarity from The Lesbian & Gay Foundation and giving them the strong message that the people of Manchester - gay and straight - stand shoulder to shoulder with them."
The Lesbian & Gay Foundation's Chief Executive Paul Martin OBE said: “The Lesbian & Gay Foundation would like to offer our solidarity with all LGB&T people in St.Petersburg who are struggling with the situation they find themselves in.
We share the concerns of our LGBT friends in St.Petersburg as in our own recent history we have faced similar experiences where we have been denied our basic human rights, our voices have not been heard and our young people have not had positive role models to help them realise their full potential.
However we are fortunate to be supported by our own city council who we know share the interests of LGB&T residents in St. Petersburg and will do whatever they can to support their progress in challenging the prejudice and injustice that they currently face. It is important for all of us that they succeed.”
‘All Out’ for St.Petersburg
Over 300,000 people have so far signed a petition demanding an end to Russia's "gay gag rule" that has the potential to prevent Russian LGBT people being pushed underground or their speech from being criminalized.
If Governor Poltavchenko of St.Petersburg signs the bill into law, writing a book with a gay character, mentioning LGBT rights in the media, or even holding hands with your same sex partner could be considered illegal "propaganda" in Russia's second largest city.
The lawmakers who advanced the bill think St. Petersburg's governor will ratify it but as Saint Petersburg is Russia’s number 1 tourist destination - and that negative publicity could harm this reputation if tourists stay away from the city.
All out members and supporters have made a video highlighting how absurd they think the law is. They want to get 100,000 views in the timeline for the Governor to veto this bill. Watch it at allout.org/stpetersburg-dont-go
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