Russian LGBT activists in U.S. to lobby against anti-gay law

Lyudmila Romodina and Oleg Klyuenkov, LGBT activists from the northern Russian port city of Arkhangelsk, hate Russia’s anti-gay “propaganda” law but they don’t support the idea of a boycott of the Sochi Olympics in Russia as a way of protesting it.KAYANO 18 BLACK YELLOW
The two members of the LGBT rights organization “Rakurs,” which means “Perspective” in Russian, say they hope the Olympics, which will be held in February in the southern Russian city of Sochi, might help to shine a light on discrimination against gay people in Russia, as well as spur discussion.
“We don’t want any extra rights” but gay people in Russia do want rights that are equal to those of their fellow Russians, Klyuenkov told CNN in an interview in Washington during a 10-day visit to the United States.
Kluyenkov argues the anti-gay “propaganda” law, which the Russian government says is aimed at protecting young people, “actually forbids people to talk in public about the problem of discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
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“In practice, other social groups are permitted to express their problems but not LGBT people. And that is discrimination. They are not equal when it comes to their right to freedom of expression,” Kluyenkov said.
Arkhangelsk has overturned its regional ban on anti-gay “propaganda” but U.S.-based Human Rights First cautions the step may be only “an administrative act to ensure compliance with the federal law.”
Kluyenkov and Ludmila Romodina began their trip in Portland, Maine — Arkhangelsk’s “sister city” — meeting with the city council and with staff of the district’s Congressman.
In Washington, they visited Capitol Hill and discussed the Sochi Olympics with staff of Sen. Patty Murray, a Washington state Democrat. They will end their trip in New York.
“Rakurs,” they say, is a non-governmental organization with approximately 100 members, not all of them active. Some have moved to bigger cities like Moscow and St. Petersburg, where economic opportunities are greater.
The group rents an office in a community center and Romodina laughs wryly when she explains the landlord told the group he would rent to them “if we don’t run naked through the halls and in feathers.”
The motto of their organization: “See the goal, believe in yourself and don’t look at the obstacles.”
“It would be more difficult if Oleg or I or our little band of activists were hidden, but we are open. That is much easier. It’s easier emotionally and in our relations with society,” she said.
The group, she says, holds protests, “public actions,” but only “one person at a time,” due to local laws.
In one, she says, three people stood about 150 feet apart, holding signs.
“Our director, my mother, and our bookkeeper,” she explains. “My mother’s sign said something about the law demeaning her child. It’s hard for her. I experience discrimination but she does too. It hurts her.”

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