Belfast Telegraph

Gay campaigners stage Russia demo

Gay rights campaigners are to stage a rally in Belfast city centre on Wednesday night to show their opposition to controversial new legislation in Russia.

The event coincides with a World Cup qualifier clash between Northern Ireland and Russia at Windsor Park in the south of the city.

The football match had been re-scheduled from March because extreme weather including heavy snow made the pitch unplayable.

John O'Doherty, director of the Rainbow Project, said on Wednesday: "Tonight, once again Northern Ireland will be on the international stage. This provides us locally with an opportunity to highlight the grave injustices experienced by our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) brothers and sisters in Russia.

"The anti-gay propaganda law is profoundly discriminatory and has caused substantial harm to the gay community in Russia. Freedom of speech is something we often take for granted and when looking at countries like Russia we remember how important it is."

Come Dine With Me star Marcus Hunter Neil, who, as Lady Portia, is one of Northern Ireland's best known drag queens, will be among those at the protest due to start at 6.30pm.

It comes amid growing calls for next year's Winter Olympics to be moved from the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi after Russia in June passed a law making it illegal to give under-18s information about homosexuality.

Actor and broadcaster Stephen Fry has been among those leading the campaign and urged Prime Minister David Cameron to support a boycott.

Mr O'Doherty added: "We have a duty to stand up and speak out in support of those who have lost their voice. I hope that the people of Belfast and Northern Ireland will stand shoulder to shoulder with us tonight and send a clear message that intolerance and injustice has no place in our world."

In London, some popular gay bars and clubs have boycotted Russian vodka to show their support for the LGBT community in the country.

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