By NATALIYA VASILYEVA
Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights activists said Tuesday they have been invited to meet with President Barack Obama on the sidelines of this week’s Group of 20 summit in Russia.
Obama and his administration have voiced concern over a law recently passed by Russia’s parliament that targets “homosexual propaganda.”
Igor Kochetkov of LGBT Network told The Associated Press that his organization will accept the invitation to meet with Obama in St. Petersburg on Thursday. The St. Petersburg-based advocacy group Coming Out said it also was invited but hasn’t decided yet whether to go.
The White House would not comment on the meeting. However, Obama has frequently met with civil society groups when traveling abroad. In 2009, he met with a group of Russian rights activists while visiting Russia, but members of the LGBT community were not present then.
The bill on “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations among minors” was signed into law by President Vladimir Putin on July 29. Russian lawmakers say the law doesn’t outlaw homosexuality but merely discourages discussion of it among people younger than 18. However, the law has outraged Russian liberals and some sectors of the international community, just five months before the start of the Winter Olympic Games in the Russian city of Sochi.
The law has sparked a boycott of Russian vodka in gay bars across North America and scattered calls for a boycott of the 2014 games. However, Obama has joined other world leaders in calling a boycott unnecessary.
Obama was to hold talks with Putin in Moscow and St. Petersburg before the G20 summit, but the U.S. leader canceled that plan in response to Russia’s decision to grant temporary asylum to Edward Snowden, the American who leaked highly secretive details about U.S. National Security Agency surveillance programs.