At Landmark UN Meeting On Gay Rights, Russia Conspicuously Absent

gay-russiaAt the first ever ministerial meeting of the United Nations to discuss LGBT rights, Russia was, unsurprisingly, nowhere to be found.

Foreign ministers and officials from Argentina, Brazil, Croatia, El Salvador, France, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Japan and Norway, Secretary of State John Kerry, the U.N. High Commissioner of Human Rights Navi Pillay  and gay rights advocates met Thursday to reaffirm their commitment to work together to combat discrimination and protect the rights of all human beings regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

“Over the past decade, many countries have embarked on historic reforms – strengthening anti-discrimination laws, combating hate crime against LGBT people and sensitizing public opinion,” Pillay said. “But in spite of advances, very serious challenges remain.”

“In some places, things seem to be getting worse, not better. As you know, regressive new laws have been proposed or adopted in several Eastern European and African countries in the past year alone […] We must, all of us, look for new ways to talk about this issue with governments – especially those that are reluctant to do so.”

Those reluctant to do so include Russia, whose own draconian anti-gay laws — banning so-called “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” around children and adoption of Russian children by foreign couples in countries that allow same-sex marriage — have come under intense scrutiny with the 2014 Winter Olympics being held in Sochi next February.

Though the Russian Embassy and Russian Mission claim they knew nothing of the U.N. meeting, a U.N. official tells MSNBC that it was no secret and “any country could have requested to join.” Maybe next time, to truly drive their point home, the U.N. should invite the 76 or so countries where  homosexuality is criminalized. Russia is not one of them — they repealed that law in 1993 — but it can certainly take a note or two from the meeting’s declaration:

Cognizant of the urgent need to take action, we therefore call on all United Nations Member States to repeal discriminatory laws, improve responses to hate-motivated violence, and ensure adequate and appropriate legal protection from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Of course, even if Russia was invited to the meeting, it probably wouldn’t have shown up since according to every government official, Russia doesn’t discriminate against gays. They should try telling that to the same-sex parents whose kids will be snatched from their cradles should a proposed law pass that seeks to deny people custody of children based on several criteria including — you guessed it — homosexuality. We’re pretty sure if you looked up discrimination in the dictionary, that’d be a prime example.