LGBT community boycotts Russian vodkas over anti-gay laws

August 6, 2013 7:27:42 PM PDT
San Francisco's LGBT community is joining others across the country in calling for a boycott of all things Russian to protest recent laws cracking down on gays in Russia.

San Francisco loves its street theater to push a political message. This time LGBT activists are joining others across the nation in calling for a boycott of Russian vodka to protest a new law passed by the Russian parliament and championed by Russian President Vladimir Putin, banning talking to children about homosexuality and outlawing so-called gay propaganda.

"To outlaw propagandas in the Russian mind is to outlaw holding hands, to outlaw waving of rainbow flags," Robbie Sweeny, a spokesperson for the group calling for the boycott, said.

Protesters have also demonstrated outside the Russian consulate, calling for a repeal of the law, but it's the vodka boycott that's gaining traction.

"The gay bar market is so lucrative to all alcohol companies; we need to send a message to the corporations that do have interest, like Stol has interests in Russia, to do more to help gays in Russia," Gays Without Borders spokesperson Michael Petrlis said.

Stolichnaya, which has a large share of the American market, says it's being unfairly targeted. The CEO said in a statement to the gay community, "We fully support and endorse your objective to fight against prejudice in Russia."

At the Royal Market and Bakery in San Francisco's Richmond District, there are all kinds of Russian vodkas, from Stoli to Kremlin. The owner says a boycott will not change Putin's mind, but will hurt his business.

"This is going to affect lots and lots of regular citizens, Russians, Armenians, Americans who love our products; they better think of something else to boycott," Akop Sulikyan said.

The activists do have something else on the table -- the 2014 winter Olympics were awarded to the Russian town of Sochi and there are calls for the games to be boycotted.

Protesters have asked Mayor Ed Lee to stop serving Russian vodka at city functions and denounce the Russian laws.

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