Chapel Hill could sever ties with sister city over LGBT rights

September 9, 2013 8:27:26 PM PDT
The Town of Chapel Hill wants to cut ties with its sister city in Russia because of the country's position on gay rights.

Russia recently passed an anti-gay law and that's not sitting well in Chapel Hill.

Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt says Russia is persecuting its LGBT community, and his move to only introduce a petition ensures that people will continue to talk about this for some time.

At issue is the Chapel Hill's relationship with the Russian city of Saratov, which is southeast of Moscow. The town created a sister-city relationship with Saratov 21 years ago, mostly as a symbolic cultural exchange partnership.

The Russia law bans lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered expression. It means people who stage gay pride rallies can be detained and thrown in jail.

Kleinschmidt and Councilman Lee Storrow want to sever the relationship with Saratov, but at least one citizen at Monday night's meeting disagrees.

"It's very much similar in my belief to the way of Dennis Rodman to North Korea. This is a gesture," said Chapel Hill resident Carl Schuler. "This is a kindness and willingness to have discussions to continue a relation."  

"We may move forward with doing this. We may not," said Kleinschmidt. "I have sent a message to the mayor of Saratov and we're awaiting some response."

The mayor's petition comes on the heels of international pressure on Russia to reverse its law ahead of next year's winter Olympic games there.

If approved, Chapel Hill would join several other U.S. cities including Ann Arbor, Mich., and Los Angeles that are making the same move.

The council only heard the petition Monday evening. night. They will discuss it and vote on it at a later date.

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