By Chris Hoenig
Reading the first paragraph of the newest statement from the Miss Universe Organization, you might think that the pageant has heard and feels the outrage over Russia’s new anti-gay laws.
“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,” the statement begins.
Petitions from the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and Change.org have called on the organization to move the Miss Universe finals out of Russia, where the new laws mean a contestant can be prosecuted for publicly supporting gay rights. “Would Russian forces storm the stage and drag her away Throw her in jail Deport her” the HRC petition asks. “That’s the very real threat that people in Russia live with every day under the nation’s heinous anti-LGBT ‘propaganda’ law.”
“Being gay in Russia is today equal to being a criminal,” the Change.org petition reads. “Russia is no longer a safe destination and host country.”
But while the organization acknowledges security concerns, the Donald Trumpowned pageant is not deterred. The rest of its statement confirms that the next Miss Universe will still be crowned in Moscow in November.
“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,” the Miss Universe Organization says. “In our 60-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.”
Past LGBT Controversies
The idea of holding the Miss Universe finals in a country that suppresses the rights of the gay community is shocking many supporters, especially following the pageant’s controversy last year involving a transgender contestant.
Jenna Talackova was initially disqualified from the Miss Universe Canada pageant because of organization rules that said all participants must be “naturally born” females. The then-23-year-old Talackova was born a male but began identifying as a female at age 4. She began hormone therapy at age 14 and underwent gender-reassignment surgery five years later.
The public backlash was swift, as were Talackova’s legal threats. After high-powered attorney Gloria Allred was brought on board, Trump first engaged in a media back-and-forth (one that many would like to forget), before eventually overturning the ban.
Talackova did go on to compete, reaching the top 12 before being eliminated when the field was narrowed to five.
Trump, who shrugged off past suggestions that he could be racist by proclaiming, “I have a great relationship with the Blacks,” has tried to explain his view of same-gender marriage by comparing it golf, but again noted, “I have so many fabulous friends who happen to be gay.”