Press Release

ADL Calls for ‘A New Jackson-Vanik’ in Response to Anti-Gay Bigotry and Harassment in Russia

New York, NY, August 16, 2013 … In response to a new national law in Russia prohibiting “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations,” and fallout from the law’s passage that has brought about an upsurge in violence targeting gays and lesbians, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) called on the United States to impose penalties if the Russian government does not “step backward on this issue of basic human rights.”

In a blog published today in The Huffington Post, Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director likened the demonization of Russia’s LGBT community to that of Jews in the former Soviet Union, saying that “bold action” was necessary to protect the security and dignity of openly gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people living in Russia.

In welcoming President Obama’s recent public criticism of the Russian law, Mr. Foxman said formal government action was also necessary and a logical next step.  He called for the imposition of “a new Jackson-Vanik,” the 1974 legislation linking favorable trade status to the right of Soviet Jews to emigrate.

“It will take more than just words,” said Mr. Foxman, a longtime civil rights leader and veteran of the lobbying efforts on behalf of Soviet Jewry. “We need a new Jackson-Vanik to convince Russia that steps backward on this issue of basic human rights will be met with strong repercussions from the United States.... Jackson-Vanik focused on one set of rights for one group, and yet it was one of this country’s most important and successful human rights initiatives.” 

Mr. Foxman also pointed to the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act, adopted in December 2012, as another similarly effective action taken by Congress to impose sanctions on Russian officials for gross human rights violations such as the wrongful imprisonment and death of a Russian lawyer for an American investment company.

“A similar approach could be taken against those Russian officials responsible for persecuting LGBT individuals and advocates for their rights,” Mr. Foxman wrote.  “While having limited practical impact, the Magnitsky law hit politically sensitive areas and named and shamed specific individuals.”

Mr. Foxman went on to suggest that the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, which will showcase today’s Russia to a global audience, would provide an opportunity to show solidarity with the LGBT community and to protest anti-gay discrimination in Russia.  But Mr. Foxman concluded that a boycott of the games would be a mistake -- depriving American athletes of their chance to compete for Olympic gold.