On Wednesday, Andy Cohen announced that he will not fulfill his role as host of the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Russia this year because it is “unsafe” for openly gay people to be in the country.
Cohen, 45, told E! News that he turned down his annual hosting gig because "their discriminatory policies make it unsafe for the gays who live there and gays coming to work or visit."
"The law is that anyone under suspicion of homosexuality can be arrested," he said, adding he "didn't feel right as a gay man stepping foot into Russia."
Cohen’s decision to boycott the Miss Universe Pageant, which will be held on Nov. 9 at the Crocus City Hall in Moscow, comes after a controversial new law was signed in Russia banning the "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations around minors" by both Russians and tourists. The law also states that anyone who makes pro-gay statement will be subject to fines and arrests when in a place where underage individuals are present.
Along with Cohen, who has hosted the pageant for two years, a petition on Change.org has amassed more than 23,000 signatures for the Miss Universe Organization to move the pageant out of Russia. The petition was started by a gay Miss Universe pageant fan who hails from New Jersey, Francesco Pascuzzi, who hopes Cohen’s decision to boycott will raise more awareness.
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“Andy Cohen’s decision to boycott hosting the Miss Universe pageant sends a very loud and clear message that Russia needs to be held accountable for its brutal and violent crackdown on gay rights,” Pascuzzi said in a press release. “There are more than 20,000 people who’ve signed my petition, and we’re going to keep the pressure on the Miss Universe pageant to pull out of Moscow, in order to make sure all contestants and spectators are safe.”
Both the Miss Universe Organization and its owner and operator, mogul Donald Trump, have yet to respond to criticisms regarding the location of the pageant this year and requests to relocate.
Russian President Vladimir Putin signed an “anti-gay propaganda” law this year that prohibits citizens as well as tourists from openly talking about or supporting gay individuals or gay rights. The law states that Russian police can arrest, fine and detain both citizens and tourists suspected of being homosexuals or pushing a pro-LGBTQ agenda. The law also prevents the adoption of Russian children to gay couples and allows anyone who makes pro-gay statements in front of minors to be fined or arrested or both.
Countless protests of the anti-gay propaganda law have emerged around the world, many calling for the boycott of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, in February.