NEWS

'Kiss-in' Protests In Canada Staged Against Russian Anti-Gay Legislation

09/08/2013 04:36 EDT | Updated 11/08/2013 05:12 EST
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Demonstrators wearing masks depicting Russian President Vladimir Putin kiss as they take part in a rally in front of the Russian embassy in Paris, on September 8, 2013, to protest against an 'anti-gay' Russian law. AFP PHOTO / LIONEL BONAVENTURE (Photo credit should read LIONEL BONAVENTURE/AFP/Getty Images)
MONTREAL - They kissed, then erupted in cheers.

Several dozen people gathered at the Russian Consulate in Montreal on Sunday to defiantly lock lips, as part of a worldwide protest against Russia's new anti-gay legislation.

"A kiss is a beautiful sign of love, so it goes against exactly what's happening in Russia," said Kat Coric, who helped organize the Montreal protest.

In all, organizers say more than 50 cities across the globe — from Berlin to Cape Town to Tokyo — took part in the event, coined "To Russia, With Love."

The controversial law bans so-called "propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations" and imposes fines on those who stage gay pride rallies.

Russia says it has no intention of changing the law despite international pressure ahead of next year's Winter Olympic Games in Sochi.

Even so, Christian Genereux, who also helped stage the Montreal event, said he's hopeful sustained attention will, eventually, force Russia to act.

"If we put pressure on our own government and the Olympic Committee to put pressure on Vladimir Putin to change those laws, I think that will help the LGBT community down there. We hope," Genereux said.

Similar protests were planned for Toronto and Vancouver.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said Canadians expect his government to defend human rights.

Harper told reporters last month Canada is not a country where people are jailed or killed for their political positions or for engaging in certain consensual acts between adults.

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird has expressed hope that the controversy would be resolved before the Games begin in February.

But Genereux and others at the Montreal "kiss-in" said they would like to see Canada take a stronger stance against the legislation.

"We are normal people and we just want the Canadian government to do something about it," he said.

Genereux said he was encouraged by U.S. President Barack Obama, who sat down with Russian civil society activists following the G20 summit and assured them he would keep pressing Moscow to respect human rights.

Sunday's rallies come following a flurry of speculation last month when quick kisses were exchanged by four Russian female sprinters after winning a relay race at the world championships in Moscow.

There were suggestions the gesture was meant as a protest against the laws, but the athletes later said it was nothing more than a celebration.

- With files from The Associated Press

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