07/27/2013 09:00 EDT | Updated 07/27/2013 09:17 EDT

Russia Boycott: Vancouver Pride Society Calls For Support From Business, Consumers

A gay rights activist holds a rainbow flag as she takes part in a gay pride event in Saint Petersburg on June 29, 2013. Russian police arrested dozens of people on June 29 after clashes erupted in the city of Saint Petersburg between pro- and anti-gay demonstrators. AFP PHOTO / OLGA MALTSEVA (Photo credit should read OLGA MALTSEVA/AFP/Getty Images)

As an international boycott of Russian vodka to protest the country's new anti-gay laws builds up steam, Vancouver Pride organizers are calling for an indefinite boycott of all Russian exports across the city.

"We want to see the boycott implemented year round," Ray Lam, general manager of Vancouver Pride Society told Huffington Post B.C. Saturday, on the eve of the city's annual Pride Week celebrations. "LGBTQ rights have been violated in Russia for years, but now the government has legislated that violation."

The boycott — which has seen bars from Chicago to the U.K. removing Russian vodka from their shelves — gathered momentum this week after news that two Dutch gay tourists had been jailed under Russia's "gay propaganda" law.

In Vancouver, The Fountainhead Pub in the heart of the city's West End was the first to pull Russian vodka from its shelves this week, but since then the protest has spread throughout gay-friendly Davie Street and to all events promoted by Vancouver Pride Society.

Lam says he would like to see the protest expand beyond the city's gay neighbourhood, just as those who attend Pride are not confined to the LGBTQ community.

"650,000 people attend Vancouver Pride," notes Lam. "And the value of Pride to Vancouver is in excess of $30-million."

He points out that on June 30th, the day Russian president Vladimir Putin signed the recent anti-gay legislation, "Fifty brave people held a Pride parade and were savagely beaten".

On the same day in 2012, Moscow banned pride parades for 100 years.

"And people are always asking, 'Why do you still need a Pride parade?'"

The Russian vodka boycott was initially called for by Seattle-based sex blogger Dan Savage as a more effective way for the LGBTQ community to protest Russia's homophobic laws than to boycott the Sochi Olympics. "Most of us weren't planning to go to the Olympic games in Russia this winter, of course, so we wouldn't be able to participate in a boycott if one got off the ground," he wrote.

Nevertheless, Lam says it is worth noting that the Canadian Olympic team marched in this year's Toronto Pride Parade for the first time, and they have written an editorial for Vancouver's 2013 Pride guide explaining why the Olympic spirit is in full alignment with the message of Pride.

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