The Human Rights Campaign announced Thursday it is contributing $100,000 to the Russia Freedom Fund, an initiative created to support of the LGBT movement’s fight against discrimination and anti-LGBT laws in the country.
“With less than two months until the Sochi Olympic Games, it’s time to harness the tidal wave of support for Russia’s LGBT community emerging around the world,” HRC President Chad Griffin said in a statement. “Now more than ever, we must expose the Russian government’s hateful campaign against its own people and support LGBT Russians enduring oppression and violence every day.”
The HRC donation — while a sliver of the organization’s financial war chest — is the latest major contribution to the Russia Freedom Fund, a partnership between the Arcus Foundation, the Council for Global Equality and the Open Society Institute, signaling what is seen as growing interest among U.S. groups to invest in international LGBT causes.
The move also comes over a month after HRC announced a $3 million push into LGBT advocacy abroad, drawing criticism from local groups.
Last year, HRC reported over $36 million in revenue. In the same year, invested $5.5 million in marriage equality ballot pushes in Washington, Minnesota, Maryland and Maine, according to a spokesman for the organization.
Contributions to the Russia Freedom Fund are tax-deductible and are used to support to a coalition of local LGBT groups in Russia working to combat anti-LGBT discrimination. HRC’s gift is “groundsetting” for the local movement, according to Anastasia Smirnova, coordinator of the coalition of Russian LGBT organizations.
“While the safety of our community continues to be put at risk, more and more individuals and groups stand up to defend and promote equality,” Smirnova said. “HRC’s support will help this energy last and will contribute to a safer and better life for LGBT people in Russia.”
The donation is the result of contributions to HRC’s “Love Conquers Hate” campaign, which raises awareness of Russia’s controversial anti-LGBT “propaganda” laws prohibiting the promotion of “non-traditional sexual relations” among minors and a wave of violence and discrimination against the LGBT community there. The organization sold t-shirts reading “Love Conquers Hate” and has garnered the participation of dozens of prominent celebrities, athletes and politicians. Actor Matt Damon, musical artist Robin Thicke and comedian Sarah Silverman joined the effort this week, according to HRC.
Early last week, Melissa Etheridge headlined a fundraiser in Manhattan staged by a coalition of other celebrities called Uprising of Love, which benefitted the Russia Freedom Fund.
With Thursday’s announcement, Kevin Jennings, Executive Director of The Arcus Foundation, speaking on behalf of the Russia Freedom Fund, said the organization is grateful for HRC’s support.
“History has demonstrated the power of combining the efforts of courageous activists with the support and resolve of a global movement,” Jennings said in a statement. “People, institutions and heads of state are coming together to support Russia’s LGBT community.”
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