Amid his cohosting duties for the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow on Saturday, out MSNBC anchor Thomas Roberts openly condemned the state's anti-LGBT laws on a Kremlin-backed network.
Roberts, in a purple tuxedo jacket with his sizable body guard standing by, spoke to Russia's state-sponsored TV network, RT, on Saturday evening from the red carpet, reports Mediaite.
"I know the law is very vague, and it's still hard to interpret for many people, but it is discrimination, and that's definitive," Roberts said. "I don't think that the LGBT population in Russia or anywhere, should be marginalized to that degree. We are not asking for special protection, we're just asking for equal respect."
The comments are some of Roberts' most direct condemnation of Russia's anti-LGBT laws, which prohibit "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relationships" where it might be visible to minors, as well as far-reaching adoption bans for gay or lesbian Russians or foreigners, or any single people who live in countries that embrace marriage equality.
Roberts also blasted the nation's anti-LGBT laws in an interview with Agence France-Press, calling them "a dark time and a dark chapter in LGBT history here."
In Moscow since Tuesday, Roberts filed several reports with MSNBC on Russia's anti-LGBT climate, including an interview with Antonin Krasovsky, a Russian journalist who was fired from his longtime position on a Kremlin-backed news network when he came out as gay earlier this year.
Ahead of the Miss Universe pageant on Saturday, Roberts sat down with outgoing Miss Universe 2012, Olivia Culpo, and said he hadn't personally experienced anything homophobic while in Moscow.
Roberts has faced vocal critique for his decision to host the pageant, not only because it takes place in Russia, but also because the pageant is owned by American billionaire Donald Trump, a stalwart opponent to marriage equality. Nevertheless, Roberts told The Advocate last month that he and his husband, Patrick Abner, would "try to work on The Donald" when they were all together in Moscow this month.
In an interview with Trump for his own program on MSNBC, Roberts pressed the thrice-married tycoon on his continued opposition to marriage equality, including, presumably, Thomas and Abner's marriage.
“I think really what you have is a very changing stance, and you see it changing very rapidly," Trump told Roberts, according to MSNBC. "If you go back 10 years ago it’s very different.” Trump also pointed to high-profile politicians, including President Obama, coming out in support of same-sex marriage, reports MSNBC.
When Roberts asked Trump whether he's undergone a personal evolution on the issue, Roberts reiterated statements he's made previously. "I think I’m evolving, and I think I’m a very fair person, but I have been for traditional marriage," said Trump. "I am for traditional marriage, I am for a marriage between a man and a woman."
Watch Roberts' appearance on Russian TV below.