Despite global shock and outrage over Russia's brutal crackdown on its LGBT community, the New York Stock Exchange is hosting a "Russia Day" this Monday to encourage American businesses to invest in Russia. American money should not be supporting a country that is terrorizing its gay community.
The New York Stock Exchange is lending its credibility to the effort to entice American investors into investing in the Russian economy. On November 18, 2013, the NYSE will host Russia Day, when leading Russian government officials — some of them the very architects of Russia's homophobic law banning any gay-positive speech and tacitly encouraging violence against LGBT Russians — will ring the closing bell at the stock exchange, to sickening applause from NYSE traders.
It is shocking that the NYSE is calling for investment in Russia. As was done to combat South Africa's apartheid, the call to Americans of conscience should be to divest from Russia, not invest. The NYSE must cancel their Russia Day activities to send a warning to Russian government officials that Russia's abuse of basic human rights is bad for business.
We’ve already seen pressure work. After hundreds signed a petition urging the American Bar Association to not support an event calling for business investment in Russia, they listened. And law firm Goodwin Procter backed out of hosting an event for Russian business leaders after they were pressured to condemn Russia's anti-LGBT laws. I know if the NYSE hears from enough of us, they’ll listen too, and send a message to Russian business leaders and officials that Russia won’t receive the world’s business until the country stops brutalizing LGBT people.
Until Russia ends its brutal crackdown on LGBT people — including officially sanctioned kidnapping, torture, and rape of gay youth and severe laws prohibiting any expression of support for LGBT rights — Russia must be challenged, not financially supported.
Russia's abusive treatment of its LGBT citizens is grimly illustrated by accounts of gay youth being kidnapped, tortured, and raped by SA-like gangs whose activities the Russian government allows to flourish and even actively encourages. Sadly, under a recently enacted law that bans any gay-positive speech throughout the country under the dubious guise of protecting minors, LGBT Russians and their sympathizers are jailed for speaking up for their rights. Human Rights First says Russia's new anti-gay law "has been used by authorities to deny LGBT Russians the fundamental rights to assemble, associate, and speak."
The treatment of gays in Russia is a very serious issue, and, as leaders of the NYSE, your role in promoting investment in such a place raises very serious questions — questions of such gravity that similar questions, at least in part, caused President Obama to cancel his summit with President Putin a few months ago. New York mayor Michael Bloomberg has already chosen to dissociate himself from Russia Day 2013, as has American Bar Association President James Silkenat, who recently withdrew as keynote speaker for an associated Russia Day event (which has since been canceled) because he "oppose[s] Russia's policies and practices that oppress the LGBT community." You, however, have encouraged the Exchange to embrace Russia Day 2013. Your promotion of investment in Russia seems analogous to advocating investment in Germany in the 1930s or South Africa in the 1980s. Yet, as was done to combat South Africa's apartheid, the call to Americans of conscience should be to divest from Russia, not invest.
I urge you to consider the negative effects that the NYSE's promotion of investment in Russia under the present circumstances may have on the Exchange's image and your own professional reputations. Such deleterious consequences can only be avoided if you use your positions of influence to call out Russia on its appalling treatment of LGBT citizens by canceling activities promoting investment in the country. Anything less would make you complicit in the regime's abuses through your involvement in promoting investment that goes to support the Putin government. Please approach the matter of LGBT human rights in Russia with principle. The lives of LGBT Russians depend on your standing up for justice.