Three Florida mayors send letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin

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On Thursday, January 30, three Florida mayors co-signed a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin urging the government to repeal the anti-gay propaganda law passed in June 2013.

Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, Tallahassee Mayor John Marks and St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, whose cities are Sister or Friendship City with various cities in Russia, signed the letter criticizing the high levels of ensuing violence since the law was passed.

The letter comes just days before the start of the Winter Olympic games, beginning February 7 in Sochi.

The letter states:

Dear President Putin,

As mayors of Florida cities with Russian sister city counterparts, we are writing to address a matter of great importance that affects the lives of millions of Americans and Russians alike.

In June 2013 you signed into law a measure that enforces a ban upon homosexual “propaganda” in Russia. Thus, it appears that citizens and visitors to Russia that identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, or Transgender (LGBT) will be subject to discrimination, fines, and potential incarceration. This law represents a disconcerting violation of basic human and civil rights and does not reflect the ideals or beliefs of our citizens, nor do we believe that it reflects the values of the citizens of our Russian sister city counterparts.

Our cities are proud of the longstanding relationships we have cultivated with the people of Russia. For decades, our sister city programs have played a significant role in improving the post-Cold War relations between Floridians and Russians. It is due in great part to our concern for our friends in Russia that we are disturbed to learn about any potential infringement upon the rights of persons identifying as LGBT. Each of our cities, as well as our Russian sister city counterparts, is home to countless persons identifying as LGBT and entitled to the same rights and privileges as everyone else.

Of course, our own nation has not always treated those in the LGBT community as equals—in truth, we still have many challenges to overcome before prejudice and discrimination are removed from our society. However, we are proud of the progress we have made and continue to make every day in support of equal rights for all. We believe every citizen must be allowed to live their lives free of discrimination and without fear of persecution from their government or their fellow citizens.

As the start of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games nears, many American athletes and their families, friends, and supporters plan to visit Russia. Unfortunately, the rights of those identifying as LGBT could be placed in jeopardy under this law. While we are encouraged by your most recent statement that the guests of the Olympic Games will not ‘have any problems’, we remain concerned that the law condones a culture of intimidation and harassment toward gays that extends far beyond the span of the Olympic events. Surely, as billions of people from around the world look toward Sochi, it is our hope that they view displays of national pride, sportsmanship, and freedom, not those of intolerance and discrimination. Even more importantly, however—once the Olympics Games have concluded, the spotlight has subsided, and the guests have returned to their own countries—the violation of human rights will continue so long as the law remains in effect.

As such, we strongly urge the Russian government to reconsider any and all laws that violate the basic human and civil rights of its Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, or Transgender citizens and visitors.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter.

In 2013, Equality Florida urged all cities in correspondence with Russia to “speak up in the face of Russia’s persecution and violence against the LGBT community,” following the introduction of the controversial law.

Equality Florida said in a news release, “We are pleased to see strong mayors in our state speak out and hope it will inspire others across the country to take action as well.”

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