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G20 Global Speak Out: Love Russia, Hate Homophobia

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G20 world leaders are being pressured to raise violations of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights in Russia when they meet in St Petersburg this Thursday. They are being targeted by a Global Speak Out two days beforehand, on Tuesday 3 September. It is being coordinated by the international online activist group All Out and involves same-day protests in 32 cities around world.

London is participating with a Love Russia, Hate Homophobia rally outside the Prime Minister's residence, 10 Downing Street, from 5-8pm on Tuesday evening.

Participants are being urged to "wear red - the colour of love." They will challenge David Cameron: "What are you doing about the anti-gay law in Russia? We want answers. Tell Putin to drop the law."

Cameron says he's against a boycott of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia but he hasn't said what he'll do instead. We are asking the Prime Minster to raise Russia's homophobic repression at the G20 summit. We want him to publicly urge President Putin to repeal the "gay propaganda law" - which bans the "promotion" of homosexuality - and to prosecute the violent homophobes who are terrorising LGBT people in Russia.

It is hoped that the 3 September protest will also ramp up pressure on the International Olympic Committee to insist that Russia gives cast-iron assurances that LGBT competitors, spectators and members of the Russian public - and their straight allies - will not be victimised for supporting LGBT equality during Winter Olympics, which are due to be held in the Russian city of Sochi in February 2014.

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The Global Speak Out is just one aspect of a flurry of worldwide campaigns against homophobia in Russia.

AllOut.org has a petition urging the Russian government to eliminate anti-gay laws and violence. This petition has already gathered over 365,000 signatures.

Another petition by Change.org has more than 206,000 signers who oppose Russia's crackdown on LGBT rights and who are urging corporate sponsors of the Sochi Winter Olympics - Coca Cola, Visa and Panasonic - to condemn the anti-gay law.

Lobby for Russia is urging voters to lobby their MP.

Out4Russia is asking people to lobby G20 leaders ahead of their summit start on Thursday.

Tuesday's London protest is endorsed by the LGBT media: Attitude, Beige, Diva, G3, Gay Star News, GT (Gay Times), Out in the City, Pink News and QX magazine - plus the Peter Tatchell Foundation and London's leading weekly city guide magazine, Time Out.

One of the London rally organisers, QX magazine editor, Cliff Joannou, said:

"In June this year, Russia's president Vladimir Putin signed into law legislation that effectively bans any positive discussion, debate or portrayal of LGBT people and relationships. Gay athletes and spectators attending the Winter Olympics could potentially face fines and/or jail sentences merely for coming out or affirming their support for LGBT equality.

"The IOC charter prohibits any form of discrimination. It cannot carry on as if no human rights abuses are happening in Russia and as if these abuses will not impact on the Winter Olympics.

"There have been protests in countries across the globe over the past few weeks against Putin's legislation, including in London on 10 August. It was the huge response to this event that gave me the idea that what was needed was for LGBT communities around the world to come together on one day with a single voice against Russia's anti-gay policies and to demand that their own governments take action to press for an end to Russia's anti-gay law.

"This is particularly relevant and urgent, given that Russia currently holds the presidency of the G20 and will be hosting the G20 summit on 5 and 6 September.

"With this Day of Action we are calling on people in Britain and around the world to join us in a unified, coordinated global protest. We are not asking for the 2014 Winter Olympics to be cancelled, but Russia's homophobic discrimination needs to end and we need action by the IOC to help make sure this happens," said Joannou.

He's right. There can be no normal sporting relations with an abnormal authoritarian regime like Putin's Russia. The attack on the LGBT community is one fragment of a much wider attack on human rights in Russia. It is important to encourage an alliance between LGBT and straight Russians to defend freedom of expression for all the people of Russia. LGBT people need allies to win and all Russians who love democracy and human rights deserve our support.

Putin apologists are spreading lies. They make the false claim that the new law is solely concerned with 'protecting' minors. Even if this is true, why do young people need protecting from the reality of same-sex love? This justification is a crude cover for homophobia.

The new Russian law criminalises any public expression of LGBT identity or any advocacy of gay equality, where a person under 18 might see it. It specifically criminalises anything that suggests heterosexuality and homosexuality are equally valid. Already people have been arrested for holding gay equality signs in public and for publicly saying homosexuality is normal - even without any evidence that a person under 18 saw them.

This anti-gay legislation will prevent LGBT teens from being told that it's okay to be gay and from receiving HIV prevention information about how to have gay sex safely.

Long before this law was passed, I was beaten up with police collusion and arrested in Moscow for holding a sign saying "Gay Rights". I still live with the brain and eye injuries incurred.

Many Russian LGBT campaigners and other human rights defenders have also been bashed and arrested. They are heroes of the LGBT freedom struggle. They stand and fight. Their courage is awesome. We have a duty to support them.

Solidarity with LGBT Russians - and with all Russian people who are victims of human rights abuses. Defend freedom of expression for everyone.

For more information about Peter Tatchell's human rights campaigns: www.PeterTatchell.net

Around the Web

Britain's homophobia needs to be tackled before we turn to Russia's ...

Homophobia in Russia - NYTimes.com

Russia: Exporting Homophobia - Newsweek and The Daily Beast

Russian anti-gay law prompts rise in homophobic violence

James Blake speaks out against Russia's anti-gay laws, homophobia in sports

Britain's homophobia needs to be tackled before we turn to Russia's