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Thursday, August 22, 2013

Chapel Hill leaders call for break with Russian sister city

Posted by on Thu, Aug 22, 2013 at 3:28 PM

Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt
  • Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt

Amid the continuing backlash to Russia's anti-gay "propaganda" law, two openly LGBT leaders in Chapel Hill are calling for the town to sever its "sister city" relationship with a Russian city.

Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt and Councilman Lee Storrow condemned the law in a joint statement Thursday afternoon, describing the news from Russia as "heartbreaking."

"Innocent individuals and families face persecution, violence and detainment for expressing themselves openly and non-violently in the public square," the statement reads. "These laws are deplorable and do nothing but create hardship, suffering, and in some cases death, for innocent people."

Chapel Hill currently has the "sister city" bond with Saratov, a port city in western Russia. Generally speaking, sister cities indicate mostly symbolic agreements to foster cultural understanding or, in some cases, business agreements.

Kleinschmidt and Storrow say the town's relationship with Saratov is "inactive" and should be eliminated.

Chapel Hill Town Councilman Lee Storrow
  • Chapel Hill Town Councilman Lee Storrow
"LGBT citizens in all societies represent a great source of talent and value, able to contribute immeasurably to the betterment of a nation and a people," the statement continues.  "Until Russian society is able to come to this basic truth, we see no ability to move forward in a productive sister city relationship with a Russian city or town."

Durham leaders are also under pressure to sever their relationship with the Russian city of Kostroma.

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