September 5, 2013 | by Chris Johnson
White House touts Obama’s meeting with Russia gay activists

The White House

The White House on Thursday touted the importance of President Obama’s upcoming meeting with gay activists in Russia (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key).

White House Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes said on Thursday that it was “important” for President Obama to meet with Russian gay activists because of recent anti-gay activity in the country.

Speaking with reporters abroad Air Force One en route to St. Petersburg, Rhodes brought up Obama’s upcoming talks with gay activists when asked about Obama’s meeting with civil society representatives in Russia.

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Q: Why is it important for the President to meet with representatives of civil society in Russia? And how much care and thought went into the selection of these representatives of civil society?

RHODES: Well, I think the United States supports civil society around the world. And in countries that we visit, we often go out of our way to express our support for civil society. In Russia, in particular, we’ve seen negative trends in terms of the freedom of action for civil society in recent years, so it’s important for the President I think to demonstrate that the United States and many in the international community believe strongly that a vibrant civil society is a significant asset for all countries.

Saint Petersburg has also been a longstanding location where there’s been a lot of civil society activity. I’d also note in particular that we wanted to include representatives of the LGBT community in Russia. Given our serious concerns with some of the recent laws that have been passed and restrictions on activity for gays and lesbians within Russia, we felt it was important to ensure that we were including their voices in a discussion with the President.

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Notably, Rhodes brought up Obama’s meeting with gay activists on his own accord after the reporter asked him generally about the meeting with civil society representatives.

LGBT activists have praised President Obama’s meeting with gay activists in Russia and say they hope the discussions will draw attention to Russia’s anti-gay propaganda law.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

1 Comment
  • This is exactly where the United States of America and President Obama should be in a time of intense human rights peril…

    – Steadfast opposition to the terror and agony of chemical warfare crimes against humanity
    – Steadfast support for human rights– and especially LGBT human rights in this period of Russian anti-LGBT state-enabled persecution

    Let’s give our strong support to President Obama, Secretary Kerry and Secretary Hagel.

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