The Miss Universe Organization has released a statement condemning Russia’s laws banning “gay propaganda.” This year’s competition is being held in Moscow, but over 27,000 people have signed a Change.org petition calling on the organization to move it. The pageant isn’t moving, but the statement suggests contestants will not be prohibited from speaking out against it:
The Miss Universe Organization believes in equality for all individuals and is deeply concerned by the laws recently enacted in Russia and currently in place in several other countries. Both the law, as well as the violence experienced by the LGBT community in Russia, are diametrically opposed to the core values of our company. Our organization has always embodied a spirit of inclusion and is a celebration of people from all countries and walks of life.
It is our hope this year’s Miss Universe contest in Moscow will help foster a common understanding and appreciation of the rights of all individuals, regardless of their nationality, race, religion or sexual orientation.
In our sixty year history we have witnessed, and been a party to, many social changes including those within the LGBT community. It has been our experience that the Miss Universe pageant provides a forum through which contestants from more than 90 countries, as well as their families and friends, forge bonds with citizens of a host country, helping to serve as a catalyst for social change.
The safety of our contestants, staff and crew is of the utmost importance and we are working with our Russian hosts to ensure the security and well-being of those traveling to Russia for the pageant.
Bravo’s Andy Cohen has already announced he will not be hosting the pageant because he refuses to go to Russia. The Miss Universe statement stands in stark contrast to the International Olympic Committee, which has suggested that athletes will be punished for speaking out against the country’s laws. The U.S. Olympic Committee has similarly said that athletes will have to “comply” with the draconian laws.