Melbourne City Council may fly a member of the St Petersburg gay community to Australia to discuss conditions for gay people in the Russian city, following the implementation of anti-gay laws in the city.
This move follows LGBT activist Carl Katter, half-brother of the anti-gay politician Bob Katter, who called on his resident city Melbourne to cut its ties with St Petersburg over its “homosexual propaganda” laws.
Carl Katter started a campaign, a petition for which contained over 9,000 signatures urging Melbourne City Council to break off it sister relationship with St Petersburg over laws banning the “promotion” of gay and trans identities to minors, enacted by the Russian city in February of last year.
Lord Mayor Robert Doyle, called in Russian ambassador Vladimir Morozov to discuss the situation. He said: ”I began by saying we have no intentions of interfering with the internal affairs of another country.
”But then I brought up the St Petersburg laws and I mentioned Melbourne was a very tolerant society and those laws would not be acceptable in Australia,” reports the Age.
He said the conversation was professional, and that the Russian ambassador was in town for an international air show.
The Lord Mayor also went on to say that the St Petersburg laws could damage the international standing of the city of St Petersburg, and mentioned that there had been calls for the Melbourne to cut its ties to the Russian city.
He described that the conversation was not easy, but that he tried to make it constructive by suggesting that he would not recommend the ties were cut.
Doyle also said that he would push the Melbourne City Council to pay for a member of the St Petersburg LGBT community to visit Melbourne, to possibly visit a gay film festival, or appear on a radio station to discusse the conditions of living in St Petersburg.
He did say that he would expect a promise that there would be no repercussions for the visitor to Melbourne. He said the council would ”try to have a medium to long-term effect. I am under no illusions that we will have any short-term effect on the laws in St Petersburg.”
The Lord Mayor had taken advice on the issue from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs, and was told that any message he gave to the Russian ambassador would reach St Petersburg within a day.
The law equates homosexuality with “paedophilia” and was passed by the city on February 29 of last year – despite more than 270,000 people signing an online petition against the measure.
In January, the Russian State Duma adopted the first reading of a homophobic censorship bill which would impose federal sanctions for the promotion of “gay propaganda”, similar to those passed in several regions of Russia, including St Petersburg.