Television personality and former Miss Universe host Andy Cohen has said that he will boycott the pageant this year, which is due to take place in Moscow, in protest against Russia’s anti-gay laws.
The Miss Universe ceremony is to take place in November in the Russian capital, and a petition has already gathered over 23,000 signatures, to have organisers relocate the pageant away from Russia.
“The law is that anyone under suspicion of homosexuality can be arrested,” Cohen told Giuliana Rancic of E! News, his co-host in 2012, that he “didn’t feel right as a gay man stepping foot into Russia.”
Cohen, 45, hosted the pageant back in 2011 and 2012.
The Change.org petition, started by a New Jersey based fan of the pageant, asks the organisers of Miss Universe, the franchise of which is owned by Donald Trump to “send a strong message”, by pulling out of hosting the event in Russia.
President Vladimir Putin signed the law in June banning the promotion of “non-traditional relationships” toward minors, a move that has been criticised as part of a broader crackdown on Russia’s gay community. Other laws banning the adoption of Russian children by foreign same-sex couples, and one which enables organisations receiving funding from abroad to be fined as “foreign agents”, were also passed.
The laws have so far sparked controversy among LGBT activists, with some calling for a boycott of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. Others have also called to boycott Russian vodka as a form of protest.
Yesterday, Nick Symmonds, a US track and field star, won silver in the men’s 800m at the Moscow World Athletic Championships yesterday, and used his speech to dedicate it to his gay and lesbian friends.