Mayor Ken defends rights of Russian gays
The Mayor of London has condemned any ban on gay rights marches, and said the matter will be raised with the Mayor of Moscow.
The mayors of the four largest cities in Europe are meeting in London today, with the openly gay Mayors of Paris and Berlin also joining Mr Livingstone.
The London Mayor said the matter of “municipal policies to combat discrimination” is on the agenda.
The organisers of Moscow’s gay pride parade are suing Yuri Luzhkov, the mayor that banned the event last year, for likening the parade to a “satanic act.”
Mr Livingstone condemned his attitude at a press conference this afternoon.
“Encouragement has been given to right wing extremists by religious and political leaders by statements such as … the Mayor of Moscow that homosexuality is ‘satanic’.
“London welcomes the important contribution that lesbians and gay men make to our city and has drawn a clear line against hate crime. As Mayor of London I condemn all acts of homophobic discrimination.”
Mr Livingstone also accused the Prime Minister and the President of Poland for encouraging right wing attacks.
“There have been attacks on the rights of gays and lesbians in Eastern Europe with violence at, and/or bans on, Gay Pride events last year in Estonia, Latvia, Poland, Russia, Moldova and Romania,” he said.
“I have already, and continue, to condemn all these and assert the basic human and civil right of gays and lesbians to peacefully demonstrate.”
Mr Luzhkov has already pledged to ban this year’s Pride march in Moscow. Last year he refused to issue a permit for the first ever Pride march in the city.
Gay activists pressed on with Moscow Pride on 27th May, despite the ban, police arrests, and violence from neo-fascists, right-wing nationalists and Orthodox Christian fundamentalists.
Over 120 people including a German MP were arrested during the chaotic scenes at Moscow Pride as gay campaigners from all over the world converged in the Russian capital.
They were met by religious and nationalist protesters chanting anti-gay slogans and 1000 riot police aiming to stop demonstrations in Red Square.
Members of OutRage! joined the organiser of Moscow Pride, Nicolai Alexeyev, to protest at City Hall.
“We appeal to the Mayors of London, Paris and Berlin to protest to Luzhkov against his ban on Moscow Gay Pride. Whatever the stance of the Moscow Mayor, we are going ahead with plans for a second Moscow Gay Pride on 27 May,” said Mr Alexeyev.
“We know Mr Luzhkov feels more and more isolated from other European leaders. He is concerned about his public image in the West and how this might affect western investment and cultural relations with Moscow. He is vulnerable to pressure,” he added.
Mr Livingstone also found time to accuse Peter Tatchell of Islamophobia.
“It is clear that there is a concerted attack on gay and lesbian rights in a series of East European countries fed by diverse currents,” he said.
“In Moscow the Russian Orthodox church, the chief rabbi and the grand Mufti all supported the ban on the Gay Pride march with the main role, due to its great weight in society, being played by the Orthodox church.
“The attempt of Mr Tatchell to focus attention on the role of the grand Mufti in Moscow, in the face of numerous attacks on gay rights in Eastern Europe which overwhelmingly come from right wing Christian and secular currents, is a clear example of an Islamaphobic campaign.”
Mr Tatchell told PinkNews.co.uk: “Our campaign against homophobia in Russia has never focused on the grand Mufti.
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“We mentioned him once a year ago. It is a barefaced lie to say that the grand Mufti was the focus of our campaign or that we are Islamophobic.”
Openly gay Conservative member of the London Assembly Brian Coleman had earlier criticised the Mayor for meeting his Moscow counterpart:
“Yuri Luzhkov’s views on gay rights are firmly stuck in the dark ages and frankly are not welcome in such an open, diverse and accepting city as London.
“Livingstone should learn that he cannot pick and choose when it comes to equality issues.”
Moscow Pride organisers are engaged in legal challenges at the European Court of Human Rights against the ban of last year’s march.
They are also suing Mayor Luzhkov for calling the parade satanic.