Miss Universe Organization: Russia's anti-LGBT violence and laws are "diametrically opposed" to our core values

Today, the Miss Universe Organization issued a statement condemning Russia's recent law banning "gay propaganda," and which condones violent attacks on LGBT people. The organization, which is holding its annual pageant in Moscow, says the Russian law that bans holding hands, rainbow flags, and the simple act of coming out is "diametrically opposed to the core values" of Miss Universe.

The statement also expresses concern for the safety of participants in the Miss Universe pageant. This follows a Change.org petition calling for the pageant to be moved from Russia which was started by a fan of the pageant and counts over 27,000 signatures. Read the full statement below:

Statement from the Miss Universe Organization:

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. 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.

It is our hope this year’s Miss Universe contest in Moscow will help foster a common understanding and appreciation of the rights of all individuals, regardless of their nationality, race, religion or sexual orientation.

In our sixty year history we have witnessed, and been a party to, many social changes including those within the LGBT community. It has been our experience that the Miss Universe pageant provides a forum through which contestants from more than 90 countries, as well as their families and friends, forge bonds with citizens of a host country, helping to serve as a catalyst for social change.

The safety of our contestants, staff and crew is of the utmost importance and we are working with our Russian hosts to ensure the security and well-being of those traveling to Russia for the pageant.

Last year, GLAAD and the Miss Universe Organization announced that the Miss Universe Organization amended its policies to allow women who are transgender to participate in its beauty competitions.

Following today's statements, GLAAD plans to reach out to the Miss Universe Organization about further speaking out against the anti-LGBT attacks and the "gay propaganda" law.

"Miss Universe is an organization with incredible impact all around the globe. Following this important first statement, Miss Universe has a unique opportunity to continue to speak out against the anti-LGBT violence and laws in Russia and demonstrate that the international community does not support Russia's anti-LGBT brutality," said GLAAD spokesperson Omar Sharif Jr.

In Russia, on July 3rd, 2013, president Vladimir Putin passed a law which prevents the adoption of Russian-born children to national and international gay couples, as well as any couples living in a country that has any LGBT acceptance policies. President Putin has also signed a law which bans the public, including tourists, from presenting pro-LGBT "propaganda." Such propaganda can include something simple as hand holding, t-shirts, or pro-gay statements. "Criminals" who break these laws are at risk of being fined, arrested, or deported. Following the passage of these laws has been a surge in anti-LGBT violence in the country.

GLAAD and Rusa LGBT, an organization that works to support LGBT Russians, are collaborating with multiple organizations to address the ongoing persecution of LGBT Russians, who are facing extreme violence and oppression due to the recent passage of the country's draconian 'anti-gay propaganda' law.