A pair of gay California state Senators are calling on officials at two state employee pension funds to disinvest from Russia due to its anti-gay laws.
Senators Ricardo Lara (D-Los Angeles) and Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) plan to introduce a resolution Monday, August 12 aimed at encouraging both the California Public Employees’ Retirement System and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System to discontinue directly investing in Russia and to encourage companies in which employee retirement funds are invested and that are doing business in Russia not to take actions that promote or otherwise enable human rights violations in the country.
“The anti-gay laws recently passed in Russia are an unconscionable affront to LGBT people across the world, not just those who live in that country,” stated Leno in a news release issued today (Friday, August 9) announcing the proposed resolution. “Californians cannot silently sit back and tacitly condone these practices by continuing to invest in and support Russian enterprises. CalPERS and CalSTRS are well placed to use their economic clout to make a strong statement that it’s unacceptable to persecute and discriminate against individuals based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.”
International and domestic attention to Russia’s draconian anti-gay laws has been escalating in recent weeks as LGBT people around the globe speak out about the issue and call for boycotts of both Russian vodka brands and the 2014 Winter Olympics, set to take place in the Russian resort town of Sochi.
This week President Barack Obama publicly condemned the laws and cited them as one of the reasons his administration canceled a planned summit meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. At a White House press conference Friday, Obama said he opposes a boycott of the Olympics and would rather see “some gay or lesbian athletes … bring home the gold or silver or bronze,” adding, “If Russia doesn’t have gay or lesbian athletes, it will probably make their team weaker.”
The controversy has led to demonstrations outside Russian consulates and images of LGBT people pouring out Stolichnaya vodka.
If adopted, Leno’s and Lara’s Senate resolution would be a formal condemnation by the California legislative body against the Russian government’s attacks on the LGBT community and laws targeting LGBT people and their supporters, including tourists and participants in the Olympics.
It also calls upon NBCUniversal to address the homophobic laws during its Olympic coverage, particularly during the broadcasts of the opening and closing ceremonies, and to point out the threat they pose to participating athletes and visitors at the international sporting competition.
The Senate resolution also asks Olympic officials to ensure the anti-gay laws will not be used against athletes or visitors and requests American congressional leaders and the Obama administration to press their Russian counterparts and leaders of other countries with anti-gay laws to decriminalize homosexuality.
“California does not tolerate discrimination and we certainly shouldn’t invest in it!” stated John O’Connor, executive director of the statewide LGBT advocacy group Equality California. “By urging the state’s two largest pension plans to cease Russian investments, we are making a bold gesture against hateful policies and a firm stance in defense of equality. Our investments should align with our values, and never reward discrimination against individuals based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.”