Los Angeles City Councilmembers Mike Bonin, Mitch O’Farrell and Tom LaBonge eloquently described their anger over the anti-gay “propaganda” law now being enforced in Russia before unveiling a small Rainbow flag attached to the St. Petersburg Sister City sign prominently displayed near City Hall. They declared their opposition to severing Sister City ties, hoping to leverage the relationship to benefit harassed and oppressed LGBT Russians.
After the unveiling, the councilmembers introduced a resolution to strongly urge the State Department to expedite the asylum program. According to Trip Oldfield, the Executive Director of the L.A.-based Program for Torture Victims—who was at the event and has served as a consultant for both Bonin and O’Farrell—Los Angeles and West Hollywood are primary cities to which LGBT Russians flee seeking asylum because of the sizable existing Russian refugee populations. The organization has helped 22 LGBT Russians in the past six months.
Additionally, the ACLU’s James Gilliam and Darrel Cummings from the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center—which sponsored the original resolution harshly criticizing Russia’s “propaganda” law—were also there. Cummings announced a program to raise money to help LGBT Russians.
There’s much more to come on this story—including a different take from Councilmember Paul Koretz who thinks this approach is “too diplomatic.” And please check out my analysis in the current issue of Frontiers.