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British prime minister to question Russian president about LGBT rights

LONDON – A top government official confirmed Tuesday night that British Prime Minister David Cameron will confront Russian President Vladimir Putin over LGBT rights.

Alistair Burt, Under Secretary of State at the Foreign Office, met with human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell and Marie Campbell of the online activist group All Out at the Foreign Office. He said Cameron will raise the issue of Russia’s new anti-gay law when he meets Putin later this week at the G20 summit in St. Petersburg.

Cameron’s commitment came just hours ahead of Tuesday’s “Love Russia, Hate Homophobia” rally opposite Downing Street, attended by 1,000 people, including entertainer Paul O’Grady.

The London protest was one of the many same-day Global Speak Out rallies held in 33 cities in 21 countries around the world, coordinated by www.allout.org.

The London protest called on Cameron and other world leaders at the G20 summit to condemn Russia’s anti-gay laws and its wider repression of human rights. U.S. President Barack Obama has already announced that he will bring up the issue to Putin and, additionally, will meet with Russian LGBT groups while he is in St. Petersburg.

Tatchell, director of the Peter Tatchell Foundation, was one of the organizers of the London protest.

“While we welcome David Cameron’s commitment to raise gay rights with President Putin, we also want him to put the issue on the G20 summit agenda and to get other G20 world leaders to sign a joint declaration against homophobia. This would be a very effective rebuke to Putin,” Tatchell said.

“We put this request to Alistair Burt at our meeting with him. He offered to forward it to David Cameron for his consideration,” he said.

“Tuesday’s global protests let Putin know that the world is watching and that people in many countries object to his government’s anti-gay policies. We also sent a signal to Russian LGBT people that they are not alone. We stand with them in solidarity,” Tatchell said.

“In June, President Putin signed legislation that effectively bans positive debate or portrayal of LGBT people and relationships. As well as being a direct attack on freedom of expression, which is guaranteed in the Russian constitution, the new anti-gay law is part of a wider attack on civil society. We oppose all infringements of human rights in Russia,” he said.

“Putin’s regime has banned all protests in the city of Sochi in the run up to the Winter Olympics. It has also banned the hosting of a Gay Pride House at the Sochi Games, which the IOC has not sought to overturn. The IOC is colluding with Russian homophobia,” Tatchell said.