Equality Florida to the City of St. Petersburg, FL: Suspend Ties with Sister City
August 12, 2013
Dear Mayor Foster,
I am writing to urge the City of St. Petersburg, Florida to suspend it’s Sister City relationship with Saint Petersburg, Russia due to the recent rise in anti-gay violence and passage of extreme anti-gay legislation.
Over the past year, Russia has passed several appalling laws aimed at dehumanizing gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in Russia and abroad. First was the ban prohibiting gay couples, or any couple or single parent living in a country with marriage equality, from adopting a Russian-born child. Next came a law allowing law enforcement to arrest tourists that are suspected to be lesbian, gay or even “pro-gay” and detain them for up to two weeks. Most recently the “gay propaganda” law was passed that said anyone organizing a Pride parade, any health official distributing information regarding safe sex between same-sex partners, or anyone talking to a child under the age of 18 about anything LGBT related can be subject to arrest or fine. The “gay propaganda” law specifically was conceived in our Sister City of Saint Petersburg, Russia.
These laws send dangerous messages that LGBT people are not fit to be full members of society with all of the freedoms afforded to everyone else; that their mere existence is a danger to children. While Saint Petersburg, Florida joins so many other communities in guaranteeing workplace and family equality, ending hate violence, and celebrating our diverse community, we cannot stand silently by while close partners of our pursue policies of hate and violence.
One important goal of the Sister City relationship is to encourage travel and cultural exchange amongst the citizens of our two cities. The anti-gay laws and lawless violence now being encouraged in Saint Petersburg, Russia negate this promise for not only Saint Petersburg, Florida's LGBT citizens, but for all who believe in equality, diversity and tolerance.
Equally disturbing is the increase and public display of anti-gay violence. Russian white supremacist hate groups have been going online, luring young gay men (often minors) to a location where they are tortured in unimaginable ways, then releasing the photos and videos of the torture online. Law enforcement has done little to prevent these heinous attacks, or prosecute those responsible, sending clear signals that violence to LGBT people is officially acceptable.
As a resident of St. Petersburg, Florida, I know our city has always been a leader in ensuring LGBT people are treated fairly and with respect. We take pride in knowing that all are welcome to live, work and play here. By continuing a Sister City relationship with Saint Petersburg, while these conditions are being not simply allowed, but promulgated by our Sister City government partners, we are turning a blind eye to
the atrocities that are happening in Russia.
I urge you and the entire St. Petersburg City Council to immediately suspend your Sister City relationship with Saint Petersburg, Russia and in doing so, tell them their treatment of LGBT is unacceptable.
Councilman Charles Gerdes
Councilman Jim Kennedy
Councilman Wengay Newton
Councilman Bill Dudley
Councilwoman Leslie Curran
Councilman Steve Kornell
Councilman Karl Nurse
Councilman Jeff Danner