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Chapel Hill could break with Russian city over anti-gay laws

Anti-gay laws should mark the end of Chapel Hill’s relationship with its estranged Russian sister city, two openly gay local leaders said Thursday.

In a news release, Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt and Town Council member Lee Storrow called for the Town Council to sever its relationship with Saratov, a port city located about 450 miles southeast of Moscow on Russia’s Volga River. The cities have been linked through the Sister Cities program since 1992, but Kleinschmidt and Storrow said the relationship has gone dormant.

In light of Russia’s “heartbreaking” persecution of homosexuals and the recent enactment of a new anti-Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender law banning “homosexual propaganda,” the men said it is time to call it quits.

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

Until Russian society changes, there is no way the cities can maintain a productive relationship, Kleinschmidt and Storrow said.

Carrboro also is Saratov’s sister city. There is no word yet whether that town’s leaders, which include openly gay Alderwoman and mayoral candidate Lydia Lavelle, will follow Chapel Hill’s example.

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