San Francisco has cancelled plans for a ceremony recognising the Russian Navy for its assistance in fighting a huge fire in the US city in 1863, allegedly due to pressure from several gay rights activists.
This follows several rallies held by gay rights activists around San Francisco in protest against Russia’s anti-gay propaganda law.
The 150th anniversary ceremony, due to take place on 23 October, was planned to commemorate the Russian naval officers and seaman who helped struggling San Francisco fire-fighters put out fires which consumed much of the San Francisco financial district.
Russian President Vladimir Putin had been invited to the event and there was to be a parade, antique fire trucks and fire ships sailing through the bay, but all plans ceased after a last minute cancellation.
Some in the gay community had apparently threatened the San Francisco City Hall with a protest against Russia during the event, although a number of prominent LGBT groups in the city have said they had no such plans.
Leonid Nakhodkin, chairman of the non-profit United Humanitarian Mission, has written to San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee asking him to reconsider his decision to abandon the ceremony. He wrote: “It should be remembered that, when saving the lives of San Francisco residents, the Russian sailors did not differentiate among sexual orientation and saved everyone they could”. He said that the actions of the Russian Navy were “humanitarian acts, existing above and beyond any politicization”.
Openly gay city supervisor Scott Wiener told Russian news agency RIA Novostin: “Mayor Lee has been extraordinarily supportive of the LGBT community on many different issues. He’s a great ally to our community.”
Russia’s anti-gay propaganda law has been heavily criticised worldwide since in came into place in June, making it illegal to distribute information about “non-traditional sexual relations” to children under the age of 18. It is seen by many to legitimise repression of the country’s LGBT community.