New York — The Miss Universe pageant has responded to a Change.org petition calling for this year’s pageant to be moved from Russia because of that country’s recently enacted anti-gay “propaganda law.
The organization said in a statement that, while the law violates the pageant’s core values, they hope the competition will foster a common understanding and appreciation of the rights of all individuals:
Both the law, as well as the violence experienced by the LGBT community in Russia, are diametrically opposed to the core values of our company. Our organization has always embodied a spirit of inclusion and is a celebration of people from all countries and walks of life.
It is our hope this year’s Miss Universe contest in Moscow will help foster a common understanding and appreciation of the rights of all individuals, regardless of their nationality, race, religion or sexual orientation.
In our sixty year history we have witnessed, and been a party to, many social changes including those within the LGBT community. It has been our experience that the Miss Universe pageant provides a forum through which contestants from more than 90 countries, as well as their families and friends, forge bonds with citizens of a host country, helping to serve as a catalyst for social change.
The organization said that safety of its contestants, staff and crew was its primary concern and that it is working with our Russian hosts to ensure the security and well-being of those traveling to Russia for the pageant.
Cohen, who has hosted the pageant for the past two years and is openly gay, said Russia’s “discriminatory policies make it unsafe for the gays who live there and gays coming to work or visit.”