Councilman Jim Kenney Urges Mayor Nutter to Cut Ties with Philly’s Russian Sister City [UPDATED]

The pro-gay advocate penned a letter to the Mayor asking him to rethink his decision to maintain a Sister City relationship with Nizhny Novgorod.

A few weeks ago I reported on a petition that called on City Council to sever Philly’s sister-city tie with Nizhny Novgorod, Russia’s fifth largest municipality that voted last year to enact a heinous law banning “LGBT propaganda.” Though more than 1,300 voters signed up to persuade City Council, Mayor Nutter is actually the only person who can break ties with a sister city, and last month a spokesman from the Mayor’s office announced that he wouldn’t do it, because, “Severing ties would cut off communication and would be counterproductive. … Ending our sister-city relationship with Nizhny Novgorod would sever our ability to support their LGBT community today and in the future. It would also invalidate 21 years of work that would likely never be repaired.”

This wasn’t a good enough answer for some local LGBT advocates, including Councilman Jim Kenney, who penned the following letter and sent it to Mayor Nutter last night: 

Dear Mayor Nutter,

I am deeply troubled by the actions of the Russian government to blatantly target its LGBTQ citizens for outright discrimination and criminal punishment for violating “a ban on homosexual propaganda,” whatever that may be!

I am equally troubled that our Russian Sister-City, Nizhny Novgorod, was one of the first cities in Russia to enact this abhorrent law that is a complete and total violation of the human rights and dignity of LGBTQ citizens.

I believe that we — as a cradle of liberty and a beacon to the world for freedom of expression and human rights, cannot sit idly by without expressing our indignation and opposition to this clear and direct targeting of LGBTQ citizens in Russia.

As such, I would ask you to join me and other members of City Council in severing our Sister City relationship with Nizhny Novgorod — as well as expressing Philadelphia’s opposition to this clear violation of the human rights of LGBTQ citizens throughout Russia.

While I disagree with your spokesman’s stated position that “severing ties would cut off communication and would be counterproductive,” I would ask you to reconsider and join with me in supporting our efforts to send a strong and direct message to the Russian government that Philadelphia will not tolerate or remain silent while LGBTQ citizens are targeted for abuse, discrimination and criminality.

Have we not learned from our recent history, that silence often times equals death? We can not and should not — and I for one — will not remain silent.

In reminding you that one of the main tenants in our Sister City program is to “educate our citizens about the world and its diversity and promote tolerance and mutual understanding among nations,” I ask that you reconsider your decision and move quickly to sever ties with Nizhny Novgorod.


Jim F. Kenney

UPDATED [9/12/2013, 11:13 a.m.]: Mayor Nutter declines Kenney’s offer to break ties with Nizhny Novgorod. More here.

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