LANSING (AP) – Officials in Lansing could end their community’s “sister cities” relationship with the Russian city of St. Petersburg due to that country’s anti-gay policies.
Lansing City Council discussed the issue Monday night and planned to take up a resolution soon, the Lansing State Journal and MLive.com reported. The resolution likely would call on St. Petersburg to change its policies if it wants to keep its relationship with Lansing.
“We need to say we do not tolerate this, we do not accept this,” said Councilwoman Jody Washington, who first raised the issue last week.
A message seeking comment from a representative of the Russian embassy in the U.S. was sent Tuesday by The Associated Press
Russia’s parliament passed a law banning “gay propaganda” in June. St. Petersburg was one of several cities to pass similar laws at local level before that. The federal law imposes fines for providing information about the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community to minors or holding gay pride rallies.
Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero said Russia’s anti-gay policies are “abhorrent” but says diplomacy should be tried before severing ties.
According to the Lansing Regional Sister Cities Commission, the city’s relationship with one district of St. Petersburg formally began in 1994 with a youth exchange program but fell dormant after political and geographic districts of St. Petersburg were changed several years ago.
Still, the relationship is causing concern among City Council members.
“The idea of having our name attached to St. Petersburg … is something that I think we have to seriously look at,” said Council President Carol Wood.
The Sister Cities Commission’s goal is to promote community understanding and appreciation of other cultures in hopes of creating a more peaceful world. Lansing has five other sister cities around the globe, as well as “friendship cities” with which it has ties.
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