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While everyone waits to see how the Olympics respond to Russia's new anti-gay laws with the Sochi Winter Games on the horizon, it looks like the laws have already affected one international event planned for the country: Andy Cohen, the regular host of the Miss Universe Pageant, turned down the gig because he "didn't feel right as a gay man stepping foot into Russia." 

Here's the report from E! News

The Watch What Happens Live star told his friend and pageant cohost of the past two years, E! News' Giuliana Rancic, that he turned it down because he's "concerned for his safety."The law is that anyone under suspicion of homosexuality can be arrested,"

LGBT rights in Russia have long been a concern for activists, but the issue didn't really take off in the public conversation until Russia passed a law banning "propaganda" available to minors that portrays gay and straight relationships as "socially equivalent." The law is vaguely worded, and many read it as a criminalization of anything that says or demonstrates equality or normality for LGBT people. The new law led to vodka boycotts, a a major, ongoing, push to move the 2014 winter games from Russia, and a harrowing essay from journalist Masha Gessen, who is gay, over her decision to leave Russia for the safety of her family after the law's passage. Cohen's decision not to go to Russia might be personal, but it's also an indication of just how loaded any decision to host an event in Russia has become

There's even a petition to move the pageant, scheduled for November, from Russia: it has over 23,000 signatures at this point. The petition creator argues: 

Many Miss Universe fans, myself included, identify as LGBTQ -- and surely many employees of the organization are, as well. How are any of these people, who might want or will have to attend the event, supposed to travel to Russia under these new laws and feel safe, when they could (and likely will) be beaten, arrested and/or detained on the spot for being who they are? Clearly, there is more at stake here than the organization’s reputation. 

Donald Trump, who runs the franchise, hasn't commented on the petition or on Cohen's decision. Trump announced the Moscow location for November's event in mid-June, a few days after Russia's parliament passed the bill, but before Putin signed it into law. 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.

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