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Obama urged to ban Russians behind LGBT crackdown from U.S.

18 officials’ assets frozen, denied visas under 2012 law

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Russia, anti-gay, gay news, Washington Blade
Russia, anti-gay, gay news, Washington Blade

Activists continue to urge the Obama administration to add Russians directly behind their country’s LGBT rights crackdown to the 2012 Magnitsky Act. (Washington Blade photo by Damien Salas)

A growing number of Kremlin critics are urging the Obama administration to use a 2012 law 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 behind the country’s ongoing anti-gay crackdown.

Gay journalist Jamie Kirchick and András Simonyi, the former Hungarian Ambassador to the U.S. who is the managing director of Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Transatlantic Relations in D.C., on Dec. 4 urged the White House to use the Magnitsky Act named in honor of the eponymous Russian lawyer who died in a Moscow prison in 2009 after authorities arrested him following his investigation into a $230 million tax fraud scheme. The two men specifically called for the Obama administration to add Yelena Mizulina, the Russian lawmaker who sponsored a bill that bans gay propaganda to minors that President Vladimir Putin signed into law in June, to the list of 18 Russian nationals and officials against whom the Magnitsky Act is already applied.

Kirchick and Simonyi also urged the White House to add Vitaly Milonov, sponsor of St. Petersburg’s 2012 gay propaganda ban, Alexei Trifonov of the Center for Combating Extremism in Nizhny Novgorod and Maxim Martsinkevich of the “Occupy Pedophilia” vigilante group to the list of those banned from entering the United States under the 2012 law.

The deadline to submit the four additional names to the administration was Dec. 14. The White House is expected to announce shortly whether it would add them to the Magnitsky Act.

“Activists in the West have been right to raise alarm bells about the Russian government’s inhumane policies, yet their response to the problem has thus far been scattershot and ineffective,” wrote Kirchick and Simonyi in their Dec. 4 brief. “For those hoping to put a swift end to this ignominious crusade targeting a vulnerable minority, the Magnitsky Act shows a way forward.”

Kirchick and Simonyi further discussed expanding the Magnitsky Act during a panel on Russia’s LGBT rights record that took place at Johns Hopkins University in Northwest Washington on Dec. 6.

Kirchick, who challenged Russia’s LGBT rights record during an interview on the pro-Kremlin television station RT in August before producers took him off the air, discussed calls to boycott the 2014 Winter Olympics that will take place in Sochi, Russia, in February. He questioned those who called for a boycott of Stoli and other Russian vodka brands over the summer.

“There have been very well-intentioned, but in my opinion totally ineffective protests,” said Kirchick. “There already exists a law on the books that is very effective that we can use.”

U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), who sponsored the Magnitsky Act, backs efforts to expand the list to include Russian officials and individuals directly responsible for the country’s ongoing LGBT rights crackdown.

“The Magnitsky Act can be used against those who violate the human rights of LGBT Russians or anyone else for that matter,” Cardin told the Washington Blade on Tuesday. “The law was written to be inclusive and not limited. We continue to seek ways that it can be broadened further.”

Larry Poltavtsev of Spectrum Human Rights, an organization that promotes global LGBT rights, also supports adding Milonov and others to the Magnitsky Act list. A petition his group launched on Change.org earlier this year in support of the move has more than 12,000 signatures.

“The Magnitsky Law must be applied more liberally to all human rights violators, including LGBT rights violators,” Poltavtsev told the Blade on Tuesday. “It’s the only instrument that we have if we really want to change the situation in Russia.”

Lesbian Russian journalist Masha Gessen noted during Human Rights First’s annual summit in D.C. on Dec. 5 that the Kremlin banned U.S. citizens from adopting Russian children less than a week after Obama signed the Magnitsky Act into law.

“It had a huge psychological and symbolic impact on people in Russia, including LGBT organizations,” she said.

Gessen added Russian LGBT advocacy organizations are “probably not going to speak out in support” of any effort to add additional officials to the Magnitsky Act list. She nevertheless said she supports the proposed travel ban and asset freeze of those behind Russia’s ongoing gay crackdown.

“It needs to be done,” said Gessen. “It also needs to be done because it’s the right thing to do. It’s the right thing to do to send a message to these Russian officials.”

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National

DOJ urged to investigate threats against providers of transition-related care

Boston-area hospital forced to evacuate in August

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A coalition of major health organizations are calling on U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland to investigation threats against providers of gender transition-related medical care for youth, asserting ongoing hostility, including bomb threats and threats of personal violence.

The letter, dated Oct. 3, says medical providers are facing threats for providing “evidence-based health care” to youth, which has meant care for gender transitions, such as hormones, puberty blockers and gender reassignment surgery. The targets of these threats, the letter says, are children’s hospitals, academic health systems and physicians across the country.

“These coordinated attacks threaten federally protected rights to health care for patients and their families,” the letter says. “The attacks are rooted in an intentional campaign of disinformation, where a few high-profile users on social media share false and misleading information targeting individual physicians and hospitals, resulting in a rapid escalation of threats, harassment and disruption of care across multiple jurisdictions.”

The letter has an organizational signature from American Academy of Pediatrics, American Medical Association and Children’s Hospital Association, listing no names as representatives. According to the letter, the group represent 270,000 physicians and medical students and CHA represents more than 220 children’s hospitals across the country.

Major health organizations call on the U.S. Justice Department to take action weeks after Boston Children’s Hospital was forced to evacuate over a bomb threat. Authorities later arrested a woman charged with making the after she reportedly phoned in the threat and called the staff “sickos.”

The threats, the letter says, have had significant impact on providers and services to patients, including a new mother being prevented from being with her preterm infant because of a bomb threat; the need for increased security at children’s hospitals; and staffers facing “increased threats via social media – including to their personal accounts.”

A statement from organizations accompanying the letter urges social media companies — including Twitter, TikTok and Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram — to “do more to prevent coordinated campaigns of disinformation.”

Jack Resneck, president of the American Medical Association, said in a statement accompanying the letter “individuals in all workplaces have the right to a safe environment, out of harm’s way and free of intimidation or reprisal.”

“As physicians, we condemn groups that promote hate-motivated intolerance and toxic misinformation that can lead to grave real-world violence and extremism and jeopardize patients’ health outcomes,” Resneck said.

The Washington Blade has placed a call in with the Justice Department seeking comment on the letter and the American Medical Association seeking comment on why the letter has organizational signatures as opposed to signatures from any of their representatives.

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Virginia

Youngkin makes additional appointments to Va. LGBTQ+ Advisory Board

Governor plans to revise transgender, nonbinary student guidelines

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Republican Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Republican Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin on Friday announced the appointment of three people to the Virginia LGBTQ+ Advisory Board.

Youngkin named Kerry Flynn, Jason Geske and Collin J. Hite to the board.

Casey Flores, the president of Log Cabin Republicans of Richmond, in July resigned from the board before his tenure was to begin. The resignation came amid growing criticism over a series of anti-LGBTQ and misogynist comments he made against Vice President Kamala Harris and U.S. Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), among others.

Youngkin last month announced he plans to revise the Virginia Department of Education’s guidelines for transgender and nonbinary students. Thousands of high school students across Virginia on Sept. 27 walked out of class in protest of the planned revision.

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National

Survey shows 72% of Utah residents back same-sex marriage

Troy Williams, executive director of Equality Utah said he’s not surprised to see that a majority of Utahns now support marriage equality

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The results of a poll run by the Hinckley Institute of Politics and the Desert News found 72% of Utah’s residents agree that marriages between same-sex couples should be recognized by law as valid, with the same rights as cis-gender marriages.

“For a state that less than 20 years ago passed laws and a constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage, there has been a seismic shift in opinion,” said Jason Perry, director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah.

The Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics survey also found that 23% of those surveyed disagreed, while 5% expressed that they don’t know.

The poll shows Utahns are aligned with the nation as a whole on the issue. A Gallup poll in May found 71% of Americans say they support legal same-sex marriage, a new high.

Troy Williams, executive director of Equality Utah, told the Desert News that he’s not surprised to see that a majority of Utahns now support marriage equality.

“Utah is a pro-family state, and we recognize that families come in all shapes and sizes. When we see loving, committed couples joining in matrimony, our natural impulse is to support and encourage that love. This gives me great hope for the future,” he said.

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