MOSCOW, August 21 (RIA Novosti) – The Miss Universe Organization said it is “deeply concerned” by Russia’s anti-gay law and condemned the “violence” the country’s embattled LGBT community is facing.
The organization, which plans to hold its annual beauty pageant in Moscow in November, said in a statement that a new Russian law banning “the promotion of non-traditional sexual relationships” to minors is “diametrically opposed to the core values” of Miss Universe.
“The Miss Universe Organization believes in equality for all individuals and is deeply concerned by the laws recently enacted in Russia,” it said in a statement released Tuesday by US media watchdog GLAAD, or Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.
“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 statement said. “Our organization has always embodied a spirit of inclusion and is a celebration of people from all countries and walks of life.”
The statement was issued a week after gay US talk show host and TV producer Andy Cohen turned down the position of co-host for the pageant in Moscow because “their discriminatory policies make it unsafe for the gays who live there and gays coming to work or visit."
Cohen said he "didn't feel right as a gay man stepping foot into Russia," the E! Channel entertainment website reported.
Gay rallies in Moscow and other Russian cities have for years been banned and violently dispersed by police and anti-gay protesters, including vigilante Orthodox Christian groups.
In June, three men in Russia’s Pacific Kamchatka Region were arrested for stabbing and kicking a 39-year-old airport administrator to death for his “non-traditional sexual orientation” and setting his body on fire in his car, investigators said.
In May, investigators opened a probe into the death of a 23-year-old man who was beaten to death in the southern city of Volgograd. His skull had been smashed with a rock and his genitalia mutilated, and he had been raped with beer bottles, regional media reported. A suspect in the brutal murder said the man had been killed “because he said he was gay.”
The Miss Universe Organization is co-owned by US magnate Donald Trump and NBC Universal. Candidates in the competition must be under 27 years old, have never been married and never given birth to a child. Titleholders are also required to remain single throughout their reign.
The organization, which said last year that it would change its rules to allow transgender women to participate in the competition, is now facing pressure to relocate the November pageant from Moscow. An online petition posted on www.change.org had gathered more than 28,000 signatures by Wednesday.
The law on "non-traditional sexual relationships" was signed by President Vladimir Putin in June. While the law’s proponents in Russia argue it is aimed at protecting children from harmful influences, critics allege the move is part of a broader crackdown on Russia’s gay community.
According to various Russian pollsters, about 80 percent of Russians are in favor of the ban.
The anti-gay law was adopted 20 years after homosexuality was decriminalized in Russia. A Stalinist-era law punished homosexuality with up to five years in jail.