LGBT advocates protested in front of the Russian consulate in New York City Wednesday, calling for a boycott of Russian vodka and other Russian products.
Protesters also called for the repeal of Russia’s “gay propaganda” legislation which criminalizes any sort of promotion of “non-traditional sexual relations.”
Russia’s law, which was passed in June, imposes fines on anyone who equates same-sex relationships with relationships between consenting adults of the same sex. It also allows for the arrest of foreigners in Russia who promote LGBT “propaganda.”
“In Russia, you cannot say ‘gay is good,’” said Yelena Goltsman, founder and co-president of the group Rusa LGBT. “We’re trying to do everything we can to ask them to repeal the laws.”
Bob Fluet, an owner of the New York City gay bar chain Boxers, said his bars decided to pull Stoli, a Russian vodka, from its shelves Thursday. He said Stoli was the bar’s second most popular liquor. “We know we can’t cripple the Russian government. We’re just bar owners,” Fluet said. “This is one piece of the puzzle.”
Stoli CEO Val Mendeleev responded to the boycotts in a statement to Forbes Tuesday: “I clearly understand the good intentions behind this campaign. But by targeting Stoli, they are targeting the wrong people,” he wrote. “We have proudly supported the LGBT community around the world as both a sponsor of events and programs as well as through donations to non-profit organizations. We have publicly condemned the Russian Government’s discriminatory attitude and actions targeting the LGBT community in Russia.”
Fluet, the bar owner, dismissed Stoli’s reaction, calling their support of the LGBT community “a business decision.”
“They support their brand,” he said.
Two bartenders from Boxers wearing Boxers-branded T-shirts were on hand to dump the vodka.
Fluet admitted the vodka ban was a small way to enact change. “We felt it important for us to step up. It’s bringing awareness to it. It’s not going to do anything more than that.”