Keystone Progress Executive Director Michael Morrill has started a petition on the MoveOn website, calling for Philadelphia City Council to sever Philly’s “sister city” relationship with Russia’s fifth largest city, Nizhny Novgorod. In 2012, that city’s Assembly voted to pass a “gay propaganda” law that paved the way for Russia to take it up nationwide. At that time, Morrill says, City Council failed to take action, but this time it’s imperative. “If we build enough pressure in advance of the 2014 Sochi Olympics,” he says. “Russia will be forced to act.” This is the petition Morrill is sending to City Council:
The recent anti-gay laws and violence throughout Russia are appalling. Philadelphia can and should send a message: We value and cherish our lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender residents and will not tolerate discrimination against our LGBT brothers and sisters by a sister city. Please immediately pass a resolution severing the “sister city” relationship between Philadelphia and Nizhny Novgorod, Russia.
So what does it it mean to be a “sister city,’ you ask? Morrill says it basically gives a symbolic stamp of approval to cities of similar size in other countries:
It means there are similarities in culture and values. … Oppressive regimes tout the relationships as recognition of their acceptance by the international community. That’s why there are so few sister city relationships with countries with abysmal human rights records.
Sister City relationships have been terminated when one of the cities takes actions that are considered too far outside the bounds of acceptable behavior. For example, many cities ended their relationship with Tehran over the hostage crisis in 1979. Los Angeles, Long Beach, Oakland, Lansing, and Reykjavik are also considering ending their relationships [in Russia].”
The petition is currently on MoveOn waiting for the 2,000 signatures needed to be able to send it to City Council members. Right now, the count stands at 1,200. Click here to add your name to the firstname.lastname@example.org.