Seattle City Council president Sally Clark may be coming around: Whereas last week she had only a flat-out rejection of a resolution opposing the anti-gay laws and violence in Russia, now she seems to be moving toward a middle-ground. She wrote a long blog post today on the subject. Here's the section titled that "Now What?"
What’s happening in Russia is deplorable. Let’s also recognize that what’s happening in 75 other countries not mentioned in the recent focus on Russia is equally deplorable (http://76crimes.com/). Instead of building conspiracy theories about why I didn’t say yes to a resolution, why not come up with strategies to better educate people on what’s happening in Russia and in these 76 countries, and give people real ways to be heard and make change. And do you want to talk about the situation for women in far too many parts of the globe? That can keep us busy with resolutions for a while, too.
If we need to do a resolution to make the point super clear, great, let’s do it — and let’s do it right. Let’s use the Council’s convening power and the platform made possible by Seattle Channel to get the best information we can about international human rights abuses against LGBT people in Russia and elsewhere, and let’s identify constructive steps City government and others in Seattle can take to effect change. I think the City’s LGBT Commission and Human Rights Commission can assist, but so can other Seattle-based organizations deeply involved in world affairs.
The resolution should mean something and shouldn’t be the end of people’s attention to what’s happening around the world and the attacks that happen in our own city and country.
Clark is making progress, but still dodging and blaming "conspiracy theories." She appears to be saying the same thing Council Member Tom Rasmussen said yesterday: suggesting the city council needs to take its time and consider atrocities around the globe. I understand that argument, but the other council members should dismiss that excuse as punting.
Here are six reasons why the city council shouldn't put this off:
1. These laws and crimes are worsening right now. Since Russia recently passed a law banning "gay propaganda," thereby criminalizing "gay behavior" and making pride parades illegal, a surge of anti-gay hate crimes has swept the country. We are getting new stories weekly about organized vigilante groups abducting gay teenagers, beating them, forcing them to drink urine, sexually assaulting them, and then posting video to Russian social media sites without fear, because the authorities approve. A new bill moving through the Russian Duma would remove children from the homes of gay and lesbian parents. This is all happening now; the time to respond is now.
2. Our city council has outsize influence. Seattle is home to one of just four Russian Consular Generals in the United States.
3. Russia has asked Seattle for its position. What our city hall says matters, particularly because the consul in Seattle inquired about the city's official position in a letter to Mayor Mike McGinn earlier this month. By approving a resolution, we not only send a message directly to Russia's federal government, via the consul, we put pressure on our own federal government to make this an issue.
4. Russians are asking for our help. Gays and lesbians, and Russian activists, say that our speaking out makes them safer. "The Russian embassy cares about what happens in Seattle," Russian author and activist Masha Gessen said yesterday. "You may think that this is useless but actually it matters to us." The more attention they get, especially from cultural and media behemoths like the US, the less the gay people can be targeted with impunity. And for better or worse, we have more influence through media and culture over Russia—and Seattle more than most American cities—than many other places where human rights abuses are occurring.
6. There's already a draft resolution. It's right here.
We can't stop what's happening Russia completely, but we can help. Clark and Rasmussen's suggestion of putting this off—or making a resolution that is globally broad—will not exert pressure where or when it's needed. Right now, the city is officially silent. The city is officially doing nothing. I'm absolutely certain the council can come around on this.