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Andy Cohen says he isn’t returning to his spot as co-host of the 2013 Miss Universe pageant, citing safety concerns over traveling to Russia following President Vladimir Putin‘s recent implementation of harsh anti-gay laws.
The Bravo executive and host of Watch What Happens Live — who is openly gay — told E! News’ Giuliana Rancic, with whom he co-hosted the pageant the previous two years, that he turned down the job for this year’s event, which is set for Nov. 9 at the Crocus City Hall in Moscow, Russia. He said he made his decision because he “their discriminatory policies make it unsafe for the gays who live there and gays coming to work or visit.”
“The law is that anyone under suspicion of homosexuality can be arrested,” he told Rancic, according to E! News. “[I] didn’t feel right as a gay man stepping foot into Russia.”
Bravo had no comment.
Earlier this month, the Russian government approved a law banning gay “propaganda,” with those displaying pro-gay signs or speech at risk of arrest. The government also declined to allow a Pride House at the Games; Pride Houses, which welcome LGBT athletes and fans, have been a presence at world events for several years, including the Vancouver and London Olympics.
Many in Hollywood have expressed their outrage over Russia’s new law. In a guest column that ran in The Hollywood Reporter magazine earlier this month, Oscar-winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black urged those in the industry to take a stand against the Russian government.
“[T]he truth is, the other thing that will soon be noted by Putin and LGBT Russians alike is our industry’s silence and apathy,” he wrote. “And LGBT Russians living in fear and putting their lives on the line deserve better than our inaction and silence.”
Many people have called for a boycott of the Miss Universe pageant. Francesco Pascuzzi, a gay Miss Universe fan from New Jersey, has collected more than 20,000 signatures on a Change.org petition urging the Miss Universe Organization to relocate from Russia. There also are calls for a boycott of the 2014 Winter Olympics, to be held in Sochi, Russia, from Feb 7-23.
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