europe / international / russia

US Ambassador to OSCE on LGBT rights in Russia

Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty features an interview today with openly gay US Ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Daniel Baer.

Among other issues, Ambassador Baer discussed his views on the plight of the LGBT community in Russia:

RFE/RL: What do you make of the latest developments in Russia when it comes to LGBT rights?

Baer: We have made clear our concerns about the legislation in Russia, which I should note, while it is clearly targeted at LGBT people, it doesn’t just restrict the rights of LGBT people; it restricts the rights of all people. It has been interesting to me to watch how many newspapers, media outlets in the U.S. and Europe have focused attention on that issue in the last few months. It has gotten a great deal of scrutiny and it deserves scrutiny because it is in tension with human rights obligations. But it happens, again, in the context of a variety of concerns about human rights. We have expressed our concerns about the so-called foreign agent law and the way that is used along with raids of NGO premises, etcetera, to restrict the activities of civil society in Russia.

I think one of the lessons this teaches us is one that is applicable more broadly, which is that it is rarely the members of one group of people who are suffering a rollback in their rights. It is usually a much broader issue. In this case I think we ought to remember even as we ask questions and raise concerns about the so-called gay propaganda law, that the gay propaganda law isn’t alone there.

RFE/RL: You are one of very few openly gay American ambassadors. In your job as OSCE ambassador, you will have to deal a lot with Russia. Does that make you a bit apprehensive considering what is going on in Russia at the moment?

Baer: No it doesn’t. I mean, much more important than my being a gay ambassador is the fact that I am the ambassador from the United States of America. I already have a good working relationship with my Russian counterpart at the OSCE. We have had several conversations already. I have only been at the job for ten days now, but I think we will have a perfectly fine working relationship and I am not concerned at all. I have committed to him that I will be straightforward and frank with him and I have invited him to be the same with me and I don’t see any real concern with that.

(Read the full interview here.)

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