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Mich. city officials chide Russian sister city for anti-gay laws

Aug. 8, 2013 at 1:32 PM   |   Comments

LANSING, Mich., Aug. 8 (UPI) -- Members of the city council in Lansing, Mich., are using their sister city ties with St. Petersburg, Russia, to criticize the city's treatment of gays.

The Lansing City Council tabled an initiative proposed by First Ward Councilwoman Jody Washington July 15 that would have severed ties with its Russian sister city, but Washington and other council members are using their connection to St. Petersburg to criticize its anti-gay legislation, The St. Petersburg Times reported Thursday.

City council member Kathie Dunbar, who drafted the 2006 Lansing Human Rights Ordinance to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and expression, is one of the council members pushing for a resolution condemning the anti-homosexual policies in Russia and St. Petersburg in particular.

"Can I impact change across the globe from my seat on the Lansing City Council? In most cases, no," Dunbar said. "I am limited in the effect I can have on discrimination in other jurisdictions, and we certainly don't have the time or resources to issue resolutions condemning human rights violations every time they occur in our own country, much less throughout the world. That said, the events in St. Petersburg offered us a unique opportunity."

Barbara Roberts Mason, chair of the Lansing Regional Sister Cities Commission, said the sister cities relationship with St. Petersburg has been inactive for years. She said the relationship was established with "a particular district of St. Petersburg that no longer exists since the local government was reorganized a few years ago."

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