Advocates for LGBT Equality Launch Freedom Fund To Support LGBT Russians

November 26, 2013

NEW YORK, NY (November 26, 2013) — The Arcus Foundation, the Council for Global Equality and the Open Society Foundations announced today the establishment of the Russia Freedom Fund to provide financial support directly to groups working to end discrimination and violence in Russia based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

The Fund was created with the support of numerous other human rights advocates in response to the recent and dramatic expansion of discrimination and violence directed at LGBT people in Russia, following anti-propaganda and other legislation passed earlier this year.

“LGBT people in Russia live in an increasingly hostile environment. Human rights defenders working to defend their rights face tremendous challenges – legal, social and institutional,” said Anastasia Smirnova, coordinator of a coalition of Russian LGBT organizations. “Our resources are extremely limited, and our work is time-critical. LGBT activists and organizations in Russia welcome this show of support of the community from our allies, and we are optimistic that the Fund will help us advance the position of human rights for all people in Russia.”

The Fund’s core objective is to create a safe environment for homosexual, bisexual, and trans* people in Russia by supporting local organizations that have been effective at combating discrimination and violence. Financial support will allow these organizations to address cases of discrimination and violence, to ensure that victims have access to legal support, and to take these cases to court. The Fund will also provide support to Russian organizations that work for longer term, systemic change in the status and treatment of LGBT people in the country through public education and advocacy. While initiatives based outside Russia are eligible for funding, those led by Russian LGBT organizations will be treated with priority.

Grant decisions will be made by a committee comprising representatives from the Arcus Foundation, the Open Society Foundations, nongovernmental organizations including the Council for Global Equality and the International Lesbian and Gay Association-Europe, and Russian representatives acting in an individual capacity who are deeply knowledgeable about the human rights struggle in Russia.

The Russia Freedom Fund [CLICK HERE TO DONATE] is a U.S. tax-deductible vehicle, administered through the Arcus Operating Foundation. One hundred percent of all donations will be channeled to LGBT and human rights organizations that are working in Russia or on Russian LGBT issues and have a proven track record of delivering support to people in need. The Arcus Foundation is donating the overhead support required to administer the Fund, which allows all contributions to go directly to support the local community in Russia.

Russian authorities have passed laws and taken other steps that affect the civil rights of the country’s LGBT citizens. A 2013 law forbids distribution of any information in support of “non-traditional sexual relations” to minors, which can result in a ban on public demonstrations like pride marches or any type of public education on LGBT issues.

Legislation forbidding gay and lesbian people from raising children, threatening the families of many Russian citizens, has also been proposed. As a result, anti-gay violence in Russia has been on the increase and LGBT activists have been targeted for prosecution. LGBT leaders, activists and their allies have responded with peaceful demonstrations and LGBT cultural events, with strategic litigation and other actions.

Founded in 2000 by Jon Stryker, the Arcus Foundation is a private grantmaking institution. Arcus’ mission is to achieve social justice that is inclusive of sexual orientation, gender identity and race, and to ensure conservation and respect of the great apes. The Foundation works globally and has offices in New York City and Cambridge, UK.

The Council for Global Equality is a non-profit advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C. that brings together international human rights activists, foreign policy experts, LGBT leaders, philanthropists and corporate officials to encourage a clearer and stronger American voice on human rights concerns impacting LGBT communities around the world.

The Open Society Foundations work to build vibrant and tolerant democracies whose governments are accountable to their citizens. Working with local communities in more than 100 countries, the Open Society Foundations support justice and human rights, freedom of expression, and access to public health and education.