MOSCOW – President Obama will include members of Russian LGBT groups among the NGO leaders, democracy activists and human rights advocates he meets later this week when he is in St. Petersburg, Russia, for the G-20 summit, a U.S. official confirmed to ABC News today.
It’s typical for visiting U.S. officials, including the president, to meet with civil society members here in Russia, something that always irks the Kremlin. But this appears to be the first time LGBT groups have been included in a presidential-level meeting.
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton included local LGBT groups in her meeting when she was in St. Petersburg last year, but the Obama meetings will be more at the national level, the official said.
The meeting was first reported in Buzzfeed.
It comes after a summer of international outrage over Russia’s new gay “propaganda” law, which outlaws even discussing homosexuality around minors. Violators could be fined and jailed. Foreigners face similar penalties plus deportation.
During an appearance on Jay Leno’s show last month, Obama was asked about the law and said he has “no patience for countries that try to treat gays or lesbians or transgender persons in ways that intimidate them or are harmful to them.”
The law sparked calls in the United States to boycott Russian products, including vodka. Some even called for a boycott of next year’s Winter Olympics, which Russia will host in Sochi. Gay rights groups have called on the International Olympic Committee to ensure gay athletes and fans, as well as their advocates, will not be targeted under the law during the games.
So far, Russia has said the law will remain in effect during the Olympics, but IOC officials say they are satisfied with assurances they have received from Russian leaders.
Pressure is also mounting now on Olympic sponsors. Some, including Coca-Cola, have responded, saying they are working with the IOC to ensure the games are safe for everyone.