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California lawmakers seek sanctions against Russia for laws on gays

August 12, 2013|By Patrick McGreevy
  • State Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, left, and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, talk to reporters earlier this summer. They have co-authored a resolution seeking sanctions against Russia.
State Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, left, and Senate President Pro Tem… (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated…)

California legislators are jumping into the fray over new Russian laws seen as an infringement of the rights of gays and lesbians.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) and others have signed on to support a resolution to be introduced Monday by Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) that urges California's public retirement systems not to invest future resources in Russia.

The resolution is in response to new laws signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin that ban gay adoptions as well as “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations," including gay pride events.

"The anti-gay laws recently passed in Russia are an unconscionable affront to LGBT people across the world, not just those who live in that country,” Leno said in a statement. “Californians cannot silently sit back and tacitly condone these practices by continuing to invest in and support Russian enterprises.”

The non-binding resolution calls for a change in the investment policy by the California Public Employee Retirement System (CalPERS) and the California State Teachers Retirement System (CalSTRS), which together have billions of dollars in assets.

The measure also asks the International Olympic Committee to seek a written guarantee from the Russian government that visitors to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi will not be prosecuted under the new laws.

“What’s happening in Russia is an outrageous violation of basic human rights, and history has taught us time and time again what can happen when we remain silent in the face of such persecution,” Steinberg said.

CalPERS has $1.4 billion invested in Russia, according to Joe DeAnda, a spokesman for the system.

“CalPERS is a strong defender of human and civil rights across the globe,” he said. “CalPERS always strives to be a responsible investor as we uphold our fiduciary duty to our members and their retirement security.  CalPERS will continue its prudent review of all investments and will consider current developments as it abides by all applicable laws.”

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patrick.mcgreevy@latimes.com


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