As Olympics approach, Kriseman co-signs letter calling on Vladimir Putin to repeal anti gay law

Russia's recently passed anti-gay law that allows their government to enforce a ban upon all forms of homosexual "propaganda" has become a major albatross for Russian President Vladimir Putin as he prepares to welcome the world to his country for the beginning of the Sochi Olympics next week.

Although there was never any serious talk of boycotting the games, President Obama has certainly made his displeasure about the law known. Not only is not attending the Olympics, but he's also sending prominent gay athletes like Billie Jean King and Brian Boitano to represent the U.S. next week.

In August, Equality Florida's Nadine Smith wrote a letter to then-St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster and the City Council urging them to suspend their “sister/friendship-city” relationship with St. Petersburg, Russia because of the new legislation.

The cities are not officially "sister cities" but have have a friendship-city relationship over the past decade, prompting Foster to tell the Tampa Tribune's Chris O'Donnell that because there was no official relationship “there’s nothing to respond to."

Foster's replacement, Rick Kriseman, has always had a very strong relationship with the LGBT community. So today he joined two other Florida mayors with ties to Russia to write a strongly worded letter to Putin, calling on him to "strongly urge the Russian government to reconsider any and all laws that violate the basic human and civil rights of its Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, or Transgender citizens and visitors."

Along with Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and Tallahassee Mayor John R. Marks III, Kriseman writes that "This law represents a disconcerting violation of basic human and civil rights and does not reflect the ideals or beliefs of our citizens, nor do we believe that it reflects the values of the citizens of our Russian sister city counterparts."

"Of course, our own nation has not always treated those in the LGBT community as equals," the letter goes on to say. "In truth, we still have many challenges to overcome before prejudice and discrimination are
removed from our society. However, we are proud of the progress we have made and continue to make every day in support of equal rights for all."

Under the controversial law, citizens and visitors in Russia that identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, or Transgender (LGBT) can be subject to discrimination, fines, and incarceration.

You can read the full contents of the letter below:

Dear President Putin,

As mayors of Florida cities with Russian sister city counterparts, we are writing to address a

matter of great importance that affects the lives of millions of Americans and Russians alike.

In June 2013 you signed into law a measure that enforces a ban upon homosexual

"propaganda” in Russia. Thus, it appears that citizens and visitors to Russia that identify as

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, or Transgender (LGBT) will be subject to discrimination, fines, and

potential incarceration. This law represents a disconcerting violation of basic human and civil

rights and does not reflect the ideals or beliefs of our citizens, nor do we believe that it reflects

the values of the citizens of our Russian sister city counterparts.

Our cities are proud of the longstanding relationships we have cultivated with the people of

Russia. For decades, our sister city programs have played a significant role in improving the

post-Cold War relations between Floridians and Russians. It is due in great part to our

concern for our friends in Russia that we are disturbed to learn about any potential

infringement upon the rights of persons identifying as LGBT. Each of our cities, as well as

our Russian sister city counterparts, is home to countless persons identifying as LGBT and

entitled to the same rights and privileges as everyone else.

Of course, our own nation has not always treated those in the LGBT community as equals — in

truth, we still have many challenges to overcome before prejudice and discrimination are

removed from our society. However, we are proud of the progress we have made and

continue to make every day in support of equal rights for all. We believe every citizen must

be allowed to live their lives free of discrimination and without fear of persecution from their

government or their fellow citizens.

As the start of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games nears, many American athletes and their

families, friends, and supporters plan to visit Russia. Unfortunately, the rights of those

identifying as LGBT could be placed in jeopardy under this law. While we are encouraged by

your most recent statement that the guests of the Olympic Games will not ‘have any

problems’, we remain concerned that the law condones a culture of intimidation and

harassment toward gays that extends far beyond the span of the Olympic events. Surely, as

billions of people from around the world look toward Sochi, it is our hope that they view

displays of national pride, sportsmanship, and freedom, not those of intolerance and

discrimination. Even more importantly, however — once the Olympics Games have

concluded, the spotlight has subsided, and the guests have returned to their own countries —

the violation of human rights will continue so long as the law remains in effect.

As such, we strongly urge the Russian government to reconsider any and all laws that

violate the basic human and civil rights of its Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, or Transgender

citizens and visitors.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter.

The biggest concerns revolve around the potential lack of security, with members of Congress and even some of the athletes themselves saying that Americans should think twice about traveling for the games. That's another headache for Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has been busy denying that a controversial law passed law year is anti-gay.

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