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U.S. to Russia: Respect rights of your LGBT citizens

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. State Department this week expressed concern to Russia after two of that nation's largest cities passed anti-gay legislature that essentially silences LGBT Russians and prevents Pride marches and other public gatherings of gays and lesbians.

Vladimir Putin’s ruling United Russia party, which is facing elections, is supportive of these restrictions that violate the rights of LGBT Russians. The sprawling nation, which lies in both Europe and Asia, is very homophobic.

This week, St. Petersburg, perhaps the most European of the Russian cities and home to great museums and stunning treasures, approved a law that bans "gay propaganda." It prohibits so-called propaganda of "sodomy, lesbianism, bisexualism and transgenderism, and pedophilia to minors."

As a news briefing on Tuesday, Nov. 22, a reporter asked the following question:

"Can we provide a comment regarding a reported bill being advanced in two major Russians cities and supported by Putin’s party that would criminalize activity related to defending or promoting LGBT equality, equating speech about gay and transgender issues to committing acts of pedophilia?"

The State Department spokesman said the United States has already reacted to the Russians, stating:

"We are deeply concerned by proposed local legislation in Russia that would severely restrict freedoms of expression and assembly for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals, and indeed all Russians. As Secretary Clinton has said, gay rights are human rights and human rights are gay rights.

"We have called on Russian officials to safeguard these freedoms, and to foster an environment which promotes respect for the rights of all citizens.

"The United States places great importance on combating discrimination against the LGBT community and all minority groups."