August 8, 2013

Contact: Al Killeffer
(704) 336-3438

Charlotte, NC — Recently, some members of our community have called on the City to dissolve its sister city relationship with Voronezh, Russia, in light of anti-LGBT legislation passed by Russia’s central government and anti-LGBT violence in Voronezh.  As a longtime advocate for LGBT rights in Charlotte and across America, I join Council Members Mayfield and Maddalon in strongly condemning anti-LGBT legislation and violence anywhere in the world.  However, severing our ties with Voronezh would do nothing to help the LGBT community there.  On the contrary, it would deprive us of the best means we have to ameliorate the situation.

Charlotte’s sister city relationship with Voronezh was formalized by Mayor Sue Myrick in 1991.  For more than two decades, our cities have engaged in numerous cultural exchanges that have benefited residents in both municipalities and helped increase understanding between us.  Our relationship with Voronezh is one of eight sister city relationships Charlotte maintains with cities around the globe—each one is important in connecting our city and our citizens to the broader world around us.

To end our 20-year relationship with Voronezh at this point would be a rash decision.  It would be unfair to penalize a municipality for legislation passed by Russia’s central government and it would be unfair to penalize all of Voronezh for violent acts committed by individual citizens.  Rather than sever ties with Russian cities, Sister Cities International has encouraged American cities to keep such relationships active because suspending them “…closes a channel of communication through which meaningful dialogue may be held.”  Even during the Cold War, the United States continued to engage Russia in diplomacy—an effort that ultimately paid off with the fall of the Soviet Union. 

My office has reached out to the State Department and Human Rights Watch to enlist their advice on this issue, and I’m working behind the scenes to engage other stakeholders as I examine options to further the relationship between Charlotte and Voronezh.  I look forward to presenting my findings to the full Council at our next meeting on August 26.