Issue:  Vol. 44 / No. 51 / 18 December 2014
 

Santa Clara County condemns Russian anti-gay laws

Screen Shot 2013-09-12 at 4.35.17 PMAhead of a visit by a Russian delegation of public safety officials, Santa Clara County supervisors have condemned the Eurasian country’s leaders for adopting several anti-gay laws.

The policies curb the rights of LGBT people, noted gay Supervisor Ken Yeager, including a law that imposes large fines on Russian citizens who provide basic LGBT information to minors or hold pride demonstrations. Foreigners found in violation of the law could be jailed for up to 14 days before deportation.

“This is problematic since Russia will be serving as the host of the 2014 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games,” wrote Yeager, who is serving as president of the South Bay county’s Board of Supervisors this year, in an email he sent this afternoon to constituents. “In response, I asked the Board of Supervisors to pass a resolution condemning these new laws and urge the U.S. government to also strongly condemn these laws and work with the International Olympic Committee to ensure that participants and spectators of the 2014 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games are kept safe from unfair government sanctions and violence.”

The passage of the resolution comes amid calls for the county to suspend its sister county relationship with Moscow. As the Bay Area Reporter noted in a story last month, American cities that have sister city relationships with Russian cities are being asked to suspend those ties due to the anti-gay Russian laws.

Rather than stop working with their Muscovite partners, Santa Clara County officials opted to adopt the resolution, which passed unanimously at the board meeting Tuesday, and sent  letters to the appropriate Russian officials to explain the reasoning behind the vote.

“These anti-LGBT laws are especially disheartening in light of Santa Clara County’s history of friendship and cultural exchange with the people of Russia through its Moscow Sister County Commission,” wrote Yeager. “However, the county plans to use that relationship to foster further dialog.”

Next week, a Russian delegation of police officers, social workers, and other people who work with youth will be visiting the South Bay to study juvenile justice issues, noted Yeager, “building on prior successful visits to study our foster care system.”

County staff will use the exchange, added Yeager, as an opportunity to educate the visiting guests about the importance of protecting the dignity and safety of LGBT people, especially youth.

“Afterword, I will ask the Moscow Sister County Commission to open a dialog with the local LGBT community so they can find ways to use citizen diplomacy to further influence this issue,” he wrote.

— Matthew S. Bajko, September 12, 2013 @ 4:48 pm PST
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