#RobertsInRussia: Gay MSNBC anchor uses trip to give voice to LGBT Russians

Thomas Roberts is in Russia, doing double duty. The openly gay and married MSNBC anchor has been asked to host the Miss Universe Pageant on Saturday. The pageant is being held in Moscow, at a time when Russia has been increasingly oppressive toward LGBT people. A so-called "anti-propaganda" law outlaws being out publically, holding hands, staging LGBT gatherings, saying positive things about LGBT people in public, or even being out. Another proposed law would forcibly remove children from parents who are perceived to be LGBT. Additionally, gangs have been kidnapping and torturing LGBT people and posting videos on the internet. To date, these crimes have not been investigated or prosecuted.

When Roberts accepted the assignment, he did so knowing what situation he was stepping into. He and his husband could be targeted by Russia's "anti-propaganda" laws. And so, Roberts wanted to use his trip to make a difference. He wrote about it on his own blog on MSNBC. He also interviewed Donald Trump, who owns the Miss Universe organization, along with NBCUniversal, about why Trump supported having an openly gay married man hosting the pageant in Russia. In his interview, he was able to get Trump to denounce the ant-LGBT sentiment in Russia.

Roberts also spoke with The Advocate, explaining that he consulted with Russian LGBT advocates prior to his decision to take the assignment, and that he would be working closely with them while he was in Russia.

And now the week has come. Thomas Roberts is in Russia. And so in addition to the Miss Universe hosting, Thomas has used the trip to provide a platform for LGBT Russians and how their lives are being impacted. He is keeping a travel diary on MSNBC's web site and reporting back to NBC and MSNBC.

We noted yesterday his interview with fellow openly gay news anchor, Anton Krasovsky. Unlike Roberts, when Krasovsky came out, he was quickly fired from his job at a pro-Kremlin network. Roberts talked to him about why he came out, why he doesn't plan to leave Russia, and what he hopes for.

Roberts is also posting short videos about his experience in Russia and hosting the Miss Universe Pageant, including this one with Miss Universe co-host and LGBT advocate, Mel B.

As he stated in his interview with The Advocate, Roberts is taking suggestion and direction from LGBT advocates in Russia. As he continues traveling and reporting from Russia, we expect to see more stories of LGBT people, examination of the anti-propaganda laws, and stories that haven't gotten mainstream media attention.

"I trust that Thomas Roberts is going to leverage every moment of his trip to Moscow to give visibility and voice to the LGBT Russians who are living in such oppressive conditions," said Wilson Cruz, GLAAD's National Spokesperson. "LGBT Russians sent a message that LGBT Americans should go to Russia to be out and be vocal allies, and Thomas has clearly heard them. As the world looks to Russia during the Miss Universe pageant and before the Olympics, we look forward to his news reports which shed light on how the anti-LGBT laws negatively impact and hurt everyday people in Russia."

Follow along with Thomas Roberts by reading his travel diary or following #RobertsInRussia on Twitter.

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