Chapel Hill, N.C. — Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt and Town Councilman Lee Storrow said Thursday that they plan to petition the council to end Chapel Hill's sister city relationship with a city in Russia over that country's restrictions on gay rights.
Kleinschmidt and Storrow, who are both openly gay, said they find the impact of Russia's new law banning “homosexual propaganda” to be "heartbreaking."
"Innocent individuals and families face persecution, violence and detainment for expressing themselves openly and non-violently in the public square," they said in a statement. "These laws are deplorable and do nothing but create hardship, suffering and, in some cases, death for innocent people."
Chapel Hill has had a sister city relationship with Saratov, Russia, for years, but Kleinschmidt and Storrow said the cities haven't even communicated in some time. They said there's no reason to continue the relationship.
"We hope soon Russian society – as well as all societies foreign and domestic – will recognize that LGBT people deserve equal protection and freedom under the law," they said. "Until Russian society is able to come to this basic truth, we see no ability to move forward in a productive sister city relationship with a Russian city or town."