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European Union to Address Antigay Moves in Russia

European Union to Address Antigay Moves in Russia

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European Union leaders today received a petition opposing antigay initiatives in Russia -- and promised to raise the issue with Russian prime minister Vladimir Putin.

The petition by international LGBT rights group AllOut.org, bearing 246,245 signatures from around the world, was delivered to Catherine Ashton, high representative of the European Union for foreign affairs, and Ulrike Lunacek and Michael Cashman, members of the European Parliament and copresidents of its Intergroup on LGBT Rights, at the Parliament office in Strasbourg, France.

LGBT activists are concerned about several recent and pending moves in Russia. The legislative assembly of St. Petersburg has given preliminary approval to a bill that would prohibit public mention of gay or transgender issues; it would have the effect of banning pride parades and many other events. The city government in Moscow is also working on such a law, and the national government is reportedly considering one as well. Two regions of Russia have adopted similar measures. Backers of the various bills include United Russia, the political party to which Putin and President Dmitry Medvedev belong.

The European Parliament is scheduled to adopt a resolution condemning this legislation tomorrow, and Ashton promised to meet with Putin and bring up the concerns about it, according to a news release from the Parliament. Lunacek and Cashman issued a joint statement praising her pledge, saying, "We warmly welcome Catherine Ashton's assurance that she will raise the issue directly with the Russian prime minister. The issue of equal rights for LGBT people and freedom of expression (as well as fair elections) is very dear to all Europeans -- and Russians are Europeans too," although Russia is not a member of the E.U.

Added AllOut cofounder Andre Banks: "This is a great victory: Because hundreds of thousands around the world joined AllOut.org to raise their voice, Russian activists have been heard at the highest level of the international community. But we need to continue the fight and stay mobilized with our friends in Russia."

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