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City Won’t End Sister City Relationship With Moscow Over Anti-Gay Laws

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CHICAGO (CBS) – The city of Chicago won’t join the growing boycott of Russia and all things Russian by gay rights activists.

The group Equality Illinois urged the city to suspend its sister city relationship with Moscow. The group’s public policy director, Randy Hannig, said it should begin by excluding Russian participation in next week’s annual Chicago Sister Cities International Festival.

The group also is urging businesses to suspend relationships with Russia, and suggesting cancellation of recreational or cultural travel to Russia.

The city answered with a statement from the chair of Chicago Sister Cities’ Moscow Committee, Aleksandra Efimova, who said she believes curtailing business and cultural contacts would isolate and further hurt gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Russians; and said keeping the lines of communication open can only help. She said she wants to keep the ties, and emphasize understanding and tolerance.

Hannig said the Russian crackdown is in contradiction to the actions of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, who this month launched an international campaign advocating for human rights for LGBT people.

Even Pope Francis said this week, “Who am I to judge” gay people, and added, “We shouldn’t marginalize people for this. They must be integrated into society.”

Equality Illinois also wants Bloomington-Normal to sever sister city ties with Vladimir, Russia, and Dixon to sever its ties with Dikson, Russia.