President Obama has been named one of Russia’s top gay rights heroes by the Moscow Times, an English-language newspaper based in Moscow.
The paper explained its inclusion of Obama among the “5 heroes of Russia’s gay rights movement”:
American authorities have long raised questions about human rights and LGBT issues in Russia, and Obama sent a clear signal during his visit to St. Petersburg for the G20 summit, where he organized a meeting with human rights and LGBT activists amid a busy schedule and ongoing negotiations regarding the conflict in Syria.
The meeting was attended by investigative journalist Yelena Milashina, lawyer Ivan Pavlov of human rights organization Memorial, and human rights activist Boris Pynstintsev, among others. Originally scheduled for 40 minutes, his meting eventually lasted for 90 minutes, reported Pink News.
It’s interesting, but one thing President Obama has gotten awfully good at – especially on gay civil rights issues – is using the bully pulpit to maximal advantage. It’s praise I wouldn’t have offered on any issue just a few years back, but the President has grown in office, and seems to understand, particularly on these issues, that his voice in and of itself can carry an impact.
I’m not a huge fan of ”words, words, words,” but words aren’t always meaningless. On civil rights issues, the President’s words help us both legally and with the public at large (I suspect the President’s open embrace of gay marriage may have helped us garner more support with African-Americans, among others).
But internationally is where his voice can truly matter. The president of the United States, and particularly this President of the United States, has influence – moral influence – far beyond America’s borders. We saw this when President Obama was credited with getting the ball rolling on New Zealand’s successful effort to legalize gay marriage in that country. From AP, last summer:
New Zealand lawmakers on Wednesday overwhelmingly cast a first vote in favor of a gay marriage bill that was given impetus by President Barack Obama’s public support of the issue….
The proposed changes can be directly traced to Obama’s declaration in May in support of gay marriage. That prompted center-right Prime Minister John Key to break his long silence on the issue by saying he was “not personally opposed” to the idea. Then lawmaker Louisa Wall, from the opposition Labour Party, put forward a bill she had previously drafted.
“If I’m really honest, I think the catalyst was around Obama’s announcement, and then obviously our prime minister came out very early in support, as did the leader of my party, David Shearer,” Wall told The Associated Press. “The timing was right.”
Same-sex marriage became legal in New Zealand on August 19, 2013.