Gay rights advocate Carl Katter is calling on Melbourne City Lord Mayor Robert Doyle to sever ties with its Russian sister city, St Petersburg due to its “horrific” anti-gay laws.

Katter has gathered more than 1,400 signatures on online petition website, change.org in its first 24 hours.

“The City of Melbourne has done some great work on supporting gay rights, including establishing the Relationship Declaration Register for both mixed and same-sex relationships,” Katter said.

“But their good work – and the good name of the City of Melbourne – is severely compromised by having a sister city relationship with St Petersburg.”

Change.org campaigns director Karen Skinner said there were similar petitions in Barcelona, Los Angeles and St Petersbury (Florida) to distance them from the city.

“Milan has already dumped St Petersburg as a sister city. It’s time for Melbourne to show some solidarity with the gay community of Melbourne and follow suit,” Katter said.

Katter said friends in St Petersburg described the atmosphere in the Russian city as “toxic” for the gay and lesbian community.

“Several of my Russian friends have spoken of the fear they feel when they leave their homes in St Petersburg and how such laws have been the fuel for hate and violence directed to their gay and lesbian friends.”

Doyle has requested a meeting with the Russian ambassador and a briefing on the issue from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

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