October 18, 2013 at 12:41 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Thomas Roberts to co-host Miss Universe pageant in Moscow

Thomas Roberts, Gay, Russia,MSNBC, Washington Blade

Thomas Roberts (Photo courtesy of MSNBC)

Gay MSNBC anchor Thomas Roberts on Thursday announced he will co-host next month’s 2012 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow amid ongoing concerns over Russia’s LGBT rights record.

“Courage is contagious,” Roberts wrote in a column his network posted to its website. “I have felt that way since coming out publicly in 2006. I’ve never regretted it.”

Roberts, who married his husband, Patrick Abner, in New York in 2012, further described his decision to co-host the pageant with singer Mel B as “a huge, visible opportunity for LGBT people” everywhere.

“I am not a special case. I am a good person, good spouse, good child, good sibling, good friend and hard worker. That is me,” he wrote. “I am just like millions of LGBT people around the world. We are good, regular, hard-working people who come from solid families. So when I heard there was a chance at this assignment I aggressively went after it. Lo and behold the Miss Universe team, NBC Entertainment and the Trump team agreed and offered it to me.”

Roberts’ announcement comes roughly two months after Andy Cohen told E! News he turned down a request to co-host the pageant, in part, because “he didn’t feel right as a gay man stepping foot into Russia.”

Russian President Vladimir Putin in June signed a bill into law that bans gay propaganda to minors.

A second law that bans foreign same-sex couples and any couple from a country in which gays and lesbians can legally marry from adopting Russian children took effect in July. The Family Equality Council and other LGBT advocacy groups have also criticized a proposal that seeks to allow authorities to deny parental custody based on their sexual orientation.

Author Dan Savage, playwright Harvey Fierstein and others have called for a boycott of the 2014 Winter Olympics that will take place in Sochi, Russia, in February over the Kremlin’s LGBT rights record.

Cher last month said she turned down a request to perform at the games over Russia’s gay propaganda law. LGBT rights advocates have criticized gay singer Elton John over two concerts at which he is scheduled to perform in Moscow and the Russian city of Kazan in December.

John Aravosis of AMERICAblog is among those who questioned Roberts’ decision to co-host the Miss Universe pageant that will take place in the Russian capital on Nov. 9.

“If Thomas Roberts thinks he can give gay Russians ‘hope’, then I’d implore him to do far more while he’s there than simply host the Miss Universe pageant and assume that everyone knows he’s gay and married to a man,” Aravosis wrote earlier on Friday. “The benefits of such a trip are still unclear, the risks however are not.”

The Miss Universe Organization in August criticized Russia’s gay propaganda law and the ongoing anti-LGBT crackdown in the country.

“The Miss Universe Organization believes in equality for all individuals and is deeply concerned by the laws recently enacted in Russia and currently in place in several other countries,” it said. “Both the law, as well as the violence experienced by the LGBT community in Russia, are diametrically opposed to the core values of our company. Our organization has always embodied a spirit of inclusion and is a celebration of people from all countries and walks of life.”

Donald Trump, who co-owns the Miss Universe Organization with NBC Universal, further criticized the Kremlin’s LGBT rights record during an interview with Roberts on Friday.

“I don’t like what it’s all about,” Trump said. “We can go over there and make a difference.”

Roberts was unavailable to speak with the Washington Blade as of deadline, but the gay anchor on Friday further discussed his decision to co-host the pageant during an interview on “Morning Joe”.

“I’m openly gay; I’m happily married and I don’t think anybody’s going to tell me that I’m less than,” Roberts said. “And so for that very reason that’s why I wanted to go and accept this assignment. I think it’s a wonderful assignment because this is going to be seen by a billion people in over 190 countries and if they happen to find out that I’m gay and married and my husband Patrick’s going to be there with me, fantastic.”

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

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