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Equality Illinois calls on Chicago to end relationship with Moscow

Equality Illinois calls on Chicago to end relationship with Moscow

CHICAGO – Equality Illinois on Tuesday urged the City of Chicago to suspend its sister city relationship with Moscow as part of a concerted effort to protest Russia’s criminalization of gay rights activism.

The move by Equality Illinois comes in response to anti-gay legislation signed by Russian president Vladimir Putin, and increased violence against LGBT citizens in Russia.

Chicago, Ill.

The Russian crackdown is in contradiction to the actions of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, which this month launched an international campaign advocating for human rights for LGBT people.

“As the state’s oldest and largest advocacy organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Illinoisans, we believe that it cannot be business as usual in Illinois’ relations with Russia until that country’s oppressive laws are reversed and gays are not targeted for oppression,” said Bernard Cherkasov, CEO of Equality Illinois.

“From many small but meaningful steps, a national and then an international consensus will grow and ultimately, we believe, force Russia to change its behavior toward its gay citizens and visitors,” Cherkasov said.

Even Pope Francis said only yesterday “Who am I to judge” gay people, and added, “We shouldn’t marginalize people for this. They must be integrated into society.”

“Among countries with homophobic laws, Russia is unique in that it is a permanent member of the UN Security Council and wants to be a player on the European and world stages, yet it fails to provide basic human rights for millions of its citizens and visitors. More than being persecuted and harassed, people in Russia are also being violently attacked for their advocacy. This cannot go unanswered,” Cherkasov said.

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In leading the Illinois response, Equality Illinois is calling for the city of Chicago to immediately suspend its sister city relationship with Moscow, which includes business forums and arts programs and the annual black-tie celebration in Chicago of Russia Day, which remembers the creation of Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Equality Illinois is also calling on other cities that have sister city partnerships with Russian cities should also end those relationships. They include Bloomington-Normal, Illinois and Vladimir, Russia; and Dixon, Illinois and Dikson, Russia.

The group is also urging Chicagoans to cancel recreational or cultural travel to Russia.

Gay rights activists have also launched boycott of Russian vodka, and are encouraging athletes and fans to boycott the 2014 Winter Olympic games in Sochi.

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