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Russian LGBT advocates explain what we can do to help

GLAAD has been working with Russian and Russian-speaking advocates to tell the story of what is happening in Russia to the world. This week, spokespeople from RUSA LGBT, an organization of Russian and Russian-speaking LGBT people living in the United States, have earned several media hits and opportunities to tell their story and tell a US audience what they can do to help.

Earlier this week, Yelena Goltsman, co-president of RUSA LGBT, appeared on HuffPost Live to discuss Russia's continued crackdown on LGBT people, and on President Obama's meeting with Russian LGBT advocates alongside the G-20 Summit. This was Goltsman's second appearance on HuffPost Live to discuss Russia. She appeared earlier this summer with GLAAD National Spokesperson, Omar Sharif Jr. to talk about Russia. Since then, the new laws have been proposed to limit blood donations by gay men, to set up a national "ex-gay" program, and to remove children from parents accused of being gay.

On Thursday, Russian LGBT advocate, Oleg Jelezniakov spoke to ARISE TV, which broadcasts in the United States, Europe, and Africa. Oleg explained that the only thing that the Russian population hears about LGBT people comes from the state-run news service. Therefore, the population doesn’t know real, actual LGBT people, but only believes the stereotypes and misinformation put forth by anti-LGBT politicians.

On Friday, Nina Long, the other co-president of RUSA LGBT, joined Nancy Goldstein to publish an op-ed in US News & World Report. In the op-ed they target sponsors of the Olympic Games, which are scheduled to be held in Sochi, Russia this winter. Long and Goldstein note that the corporations, who are generally LGBT friendly in the US, have been strangely silent about Russia’s new anti-LGBT laws and violence against LGBT people. They lay out concrete steps that each of these major corporations can take to truly demonstrate their commitment to protections for LGBT people in Russia, including their own employees.

This kind of corporate consistency is not only key to maintaining each company's integrity: it also ensures compliance with the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which state that, "All business enterprises have the same responsibility to respect human rights wherever they operate."

The time has come for American companies doing business in Russia to demonstrate that their own clearly stated corporate values and policies hold true wherever they set up shop. To do otherwise would mean profiting from their progressive reputation in the West while propping up a homophobic, increasingly fascistic regime in Sochi and beyond.

Each one of these Russian LGBT leaders have been speaking out for their friends and family in Russia, providing a glimpse into what LGBT people are facing in Russia. Their voice is important, and GLAAD thanks them for speaking out. We will continue to raise up voices of LGBT people in Russia and call for the safety and protections of LGBT people around the world.

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