Out MSNBC anchor Thomas Roberts published a heartfelt op-ed with MSNBC today, explaining why he's intending to fulfill his obligations as cohost of the 2013 Miss Universe pageant — slated to begin in November in Moscow.
Roberts, who came out publicly in 2006 and says he's "never regretted it," acknowledges the virulently anti-LGBT climate in Russia, where President Vladimir Putin this summer signed a nationwide ban on "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relationships" visible to minors — essentially resulting in the criminalization of any pro-LGBT speech or silent demonstration, including waving a rainbow flag. Shortly after Putin signed the ban on so-called homosexual propaganda, he also signed a law that prohibits gay and lesbian people from adopting Russian orphans, as well as any single people from nations that embrace marriage equality. The Russian parliament, known as the State Duma, is reportedly considering a bill that would declare homosexuality tantamount to child abuse and forcibly remove children of LGBT parents from their homes.
Despite widespread calls for an international boycott of Russia and Russian-made products, Roberts writes that when the opportunity to participate in the Miss Universe program arose, he "aggressively went after it."
"I am not going to boycott," Roberts writes. "Boycotting and vilifying from the outside is too easy. Rather, I choose to offer my support of the LGBT community in Russia by going to Moscow and hosting this event as a journalist, an anchor and a man who happens to be gay. Let people see I am no different than anyone else."
Roberts notes that all children — Russian, American, or otherwise — need hope. And he might be just the person to provide that example, Roberts asserts.
"I am a happy, healthy, gainfully employed, educated and married man," writes Roberts. "And yes, I am gay. These new Russian laws won’t stop Russians from being born LGBT and growing up to identify as such. Russia’s treatment of its LGBT citizens is unacceptable, unrealistic and only promotes homophobia and intolerance for a community that does and will continue to exist."
"We do them no favors by turning away now," Roberts concludes. "We must be visible, we must show up, and, as Harvey Milk said, we must 'give them hope.' I go to prove there’s hope."