WASHINGTON, October 18 (RIA Novosti) – An openly gay US television news anchor will host the Miss Universe pageant in Moscow next month in what he has called a show of solidarity with Russia’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community in the wake of controversial Russian legislation on homosexuality.
“I choose to offer my support of the LGBT community in Russia by going to Moscow and hosting this event as a journalist, an anchor and a man who happens to be gay. Let people see I am no different than anyone else,” Thomas Roberts, a news anchor for the US cable network MSNBC, wrote in a blog post Thursday.
Organizers of the pageant, including US real estate mogul and reality television star Donald Trump, announced Thursday that Roberts would co-host the Nov. 9 event at Moscow’s Crocus City Hall together with British pop star Mel B, formerly of the Spice Girls.
Last year’s host, openly gay American television personality Andy Cohen, announced he would not take part in this year’s event, saying he “didn't feel right as a gay man stepping foot into Russia” after Russian President Vladimir Putin signed legislation in June banning the promotion of “non-traditional sexual orientations” among minors.
The Kremlin maintains the law does not prevent adults from making their own sexual choices or discriminate against homosexuals in any way and is aimed solely at protecting children. Critics charge the law promotes a wider crackdown on homosexuality in Russian society.
In July, Putin signed a law prohibiting gay couples from adopting children and banning the adoption of Russian children by citizens of countries where same-sex marriages are officially recognized.
Roberts said in his blog post that he is “diametrically opposed” to the Russian legislation but expressed hope that by hosting the pageant, he can demonstrate that a gay person can be “happy, healthy, gainfully employed, educated and married.”
“I am not going to boycott,” he wrote. “Boycotting and vilifying from the outside is too easy.”
Gay rights activists petitioned Trump, owner of the Miss Universe Organization, to hold the event outside Russia in response to the legislation.
The organization declined to move the pageant, though it said in a statement in August that it is “deeply concerned by the laws recently enacted in Russia and currently in place in several other countries.”
“Both the law, as well as the violence experienced by the LGBT community in Russia, are diametrically opposed to the core values of our company,” the organization said, adding that it hopes the event will “help foster a common understanding and appreciation of the rights of all individuals.”
Although Moscow repealed in 1993 Russia’s Stalin-era law punishing gays with up to five years in jail, attitudes toward homosexuality remains conservative in Russian society.
According to a poll in May by Russia’s Levada Center, almost 80 percent of Russians are in favor of banning promotion of non-traditional relationships. A June survey by state-run pollster VTsIOM said 40 percent of Russians think homosexuality should be a crime.