Originally posted yesterday afternoon and moved up.

One of four Russian consuls general living in the United States sent an agitated letter to Seattle mayor Mike McGinn asking why he recently joined a "misleading" protest against Russia's anti-LGBT laws and the upswing in anti-gay violence there. Andrey Yushmanov says he was "unpleasantly surprised" by seeing online photos of the mayor holding a "Stop Putin" sign in front of Yushmanov's gated Madison Park mansion. "I would appreciate it if you could clarify whether your support of the protesters reflects the official position on the authorities of Seattle?" Yushmanov pressed.

Mayor McGinn: Putin on the diss.
  • Photo by Dan Savage
  • Mayor McGinn: Putin on the diss.
The Russian official's irritation was predictable after 250 protesters, who gathered in front of the consular residence on September 3, kindled a blitz of television media and associated Yushmanov personally with laws recently passed under President Vladmir Putin that criminalize gay propaganda, ban tourists from exhibiting gay behavior, and prohibit gay parents from adopting children. (The protest was promoted in part by The Stranger.) Since the law passed in Russia, it has triggered a surge of anti-gay hate crimes—including gays being ambushed, beaten, doused in urine, and, most recently, raped and murdered on camera.

But Yushmanov argued that gays are treated fairly with a "spirit of tolerance" under Russia's constitution, which bans discrimination, and, as such, the protest's portrayal of Russia being intolerant towards gay people "is simply not true." The anti-propaganda laws are purportedly designed to help kids. "The goal of public policy toward children is to protect them from factors that can negatively affect their physical, intellectual, mental, spiritual, and moral development," Yushmanov said in defense of the law, adding that "punishing a country for having a different opinion is a form of discrimination in itself."

"I disagree," McGinn replied last Friday in an unapologetic defense of the protest—and promotion of equality for LGBT people—but he stopped short of offering an official city position.

(Yushmanov's letter is here, and McGinn's reply is here.)

"Tolerance of homosexuality means not calling its legality into question," McGinn pushed back. "Tolerance of homosexuality means affording the same rights to LGBT citizens that other citizens enjoy." He added that Russia's policies "condemn homosexuality while promoting reticence in the face of hate-based violence."

Asked why the mayor spoke only for himself, not on behalf of the city, McGinn's office said the Seattle City Council refused to take a position against the anti-gay laws. "We inquired with the Council President [Sally Clark] to see if the Council would support a joint resolution expressing the City of Seattle’s official position regarding anti-LGBT laws in Russia," says mayoral spokesman Robert Cruickshank. "She declined." Speaking for Clark, council spokeswoman Dana Robinson-Slote explained that the council declined because they were not part of the protest, and they considered it "off-topic" because it did not "directly relate to city work."

UPDATE: That's an interesting argument from the City Council—they only adopt resolutions relating to city business—because the council also passed resolutions recently that oppose federal approval of genetically modified salmon, support a statewide initiative to label genetically modified foods, back marriage equality in Washington State, and seek an end of the Iraq war. Then there are resolutions denouncing the oppressive regime in Burma, seeking an end to Aprtheid in South Africa, calling to end Apartheid yet again, supporting democracy in South Africa, and asking for the release of Nelson Mandela and new congressional sanctions. That was all "directly relate to city work," huh? Were the current and previous councils wrong to pass all those?