February 28, 2015 at 3:49 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Russia propaganda law created ‘army of anti-gay vigilante crusaders’

Gregory Angelo, Log Cabin Republicans, gay news, Washington Blade, CPAC, Conservative Political Action Conference

Log Cabin Republicans Executive Director Gregory Angelo spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference panel, ‘Putin’s Russia: A New Cold War?’ on Feb. 28, 2015. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — The executive director of Log Cabin Republicans on Saturday during a panel at the Conservative Political Action Conference sharply criticized Russia’s LGBT rights record that includes a law banning the promotion of so-called gay propaganda to minors.

“What (Russian President Vladimir) Putin’s ‘gay propaganda’ law has created is essentially an army of anti-gay vigilante crusaders who target gay people and people merely suspected of being gay for extreme violence,” said Gregory T. Angelo during a panel on whether Putin is seeking to provoke a second Cold War.

Former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, Cliff May of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and Amanda Brickell Bellows of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill also took part in the panel that Seth Cropsy of the Hudson Institute moderated.

Angelo during the panel compared the gay propaganda law that Putin signed in 2013 to California’s Proposition 6, which would have banned gays and lesbians and those who supported gay rights from working in the state’s public schools.

Voters in 1978 rejected the proposal — dubbed the Briggs Initiative after the Orange County lawmaker who sponsored it — after then-Gov. Ronald Reagan and others spoke out against it.

“Reagan’s opposition to gay propaganda laws were rooted in the potential in harmful consequences, unintended consequences,” said Angelo. “That’s exactly what we are seeing playing out in Russia today.”

Russian father targeted because neighbors thought ‘he was gay’

Russian advocates with whom the Washington Blade has spoken indicate anti-LGBT violence and discrimination have increased significantly since Putin signed the gay propaganda law.

Nadya, a Russian lesbian who moved to Baltimore last October with her girlfriend, told the Blade during an interview earlier this month that politicians and religious officials in her homeland “provoke people just to be anti-gay.”

“It’s some kind of honor to kill LGBT people,” she said.

Angelo during the CPAC panel referenced a single father who was raising his 3-year-old daughter about whom he heard from Russian LGBT rights advocates who visited Log Cabin Republicans’ Washington office in 2013.

“Because he was unmarried, locals whispered that it must mean that he was gay,” said Angelo.

Angelo noted someone threw a rock through the father’s living room window “right at the time his 3-year-old daughter was looking out it.”

“His daughter’s face was lacerated and her father, naturally, was shaken to the core,” said Angelo. “This is the reality today in Putin’s Russia. It’s the difference between United States leaders like Ronald Reagan and backwards thinking Russian leaders like Vladimir Putin.”

Pro-LGBT Russian opposition leader murdered

The CPAC panel took place less than a day after Boris Nemtsov, a prominent figure within the Russian opposition movement, was shot to death while walking on a bridge near the Kremlin.

The Associated Press reported that Nemtsov — who publicly supported LGBT rights in Russia — was killed hours after he criticized Putin’s “mad, aggressive” policies during a radio interview. The news wire noted the opposition leader was also scheduled to lead a Sunday rally against the Kremlin’s response to the country’s economic crisis and the war between the Ukrainian government and pro-Russian separatists.

“When someone is gunned down, virtually on the steps of the Kremlin and he is your only real opposition left standing, we should be realistic about why that happened,” said Fiorina, referring to Nemtsov’s death.

Angelo criticizes Obama response to LGBT rights abuses

President Obama in March 2014 froze the American assets of Yelena Mizulina, a state Duma deputy who sponsored the gay propaganda bill, and six other Russian officials over the annexation of Crimea.

Gay journalist Jamie Kirchick and Spectrum Human Rights, a group that advocates on behalf of LGBT Russians, have urged the White House to use a 2012 law — the Magnitsky Act — that freezes the assets of Russian citizens and officials directly responsible for human rights violations and bans them from entering the U.S. to punish those responsible for the country’s anti-gay crackdown.

Angelo during the CPAC panel held up a copy of the Global Respect Act, a bill introduced by gay U.S. Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) that would ban those responsible for anti-LGBT human rights violations from entering the U.S. The measure would also require the State Department to document the aforementioned abuses in its annual Human Rights Report.

Secretary of State John Kerry on Friday during a Washington reception formally introduced Randy Berry as the country’s first envoy to promote global LGBT rights.

Two LGBT rights advocates were among the nine Russian civil society leaders with whom Obama met in 2013 during his visit to St. Petersburg for the G-20 summit.

Angelo nevertheless accused Obama of not doing enough to respond to the Kremlin’s LGBT rights record.

“Unfortunately we have a president in the White House whose response to these LGBT human rights abuses in Russia and other countries has been at best indecision and inaction, and at worst accommodation and appeasement,” said Angelo.

Russia panel ‘tremendous opportunity’ for conservatives

Angelo’s participation in the CPAC panel comes less than two weeks after he accused the American Conservative Union, which organizes the conference, of denying his group the opportunity to co-sponsor the gathering at the Gaylord National Hotel.

Log Cabin Republicans later accepted an invitation to participate in the Russia panel.

Angelo described the CPAC panel as a “tremendous opportunity” for conservatives to rally behind the issue of human rights. He specifically referred to reports of Islamic State militants executing men accused of being gay to bolster his point.

“We have a tremendous opportunity right now, here at CPAC, to begin this movement, to coalesce as conservatives to unite behind human rights, to stand up for freedom and to contradict the tyranny of Putin’s Russia with the love of liberty in the United States,” he said.

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

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