st-nicholas-maritime-cathedral-in-st-petersburgMore than 10,000 people have called on Melbourne City Council to suspend its sister city ties with St. Petersburg over its anti-gay laws.

LGBTI rights advocate Carl Katter handed his petition to Melbourne City lord mayor Robert Doyle last Friday, which is expected to be tabled into council this week.

Katter first started the online petition at change.org in late February, gathering more than 1,400 signatures on its first day.

Last March, St. Petersburg authorities banned the promotion of LGBT issues with fines ranging from AU$150 for an individual and up to AU$15,000 for a business.

The lord mayor has already indicated that revoking its sister city relationship with Russia’s second largest city was not likely after he met with Russian ambassador Vladimir Morozov on the issue.

But Katter said Melbourne city councillors were impressed with the petition.

“It is disappointing that they haven’t seen the benefit of suspending the relationship but they do see the benefit in exposing the dissatisfaction of such laws,” he said.

“The lord mayor whole-heartedly agrees that those anti-gay laws are very damaging.

“But there was no real motivation to suspend the relationship due to his contact with DFAT [Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade] and his belief that once we close the doors on that relationship that there’s no further chance for influence.”

Katter said he was going to continue pushing for a suspension with the support from some councillors, including Cr Richard Foster.

Doyle had proposed that the council fly a Russian LGBT rights advocate to Melbourne for one of its queer festivals in future.

While Katter did not discuss this issue with the Lord Mayor at length, he said there were concerns that such a move could endanger someone upon their return to Russia.

“Even though their safety is guaranteed, we don’t think that that can be guaranteed,” he said.

The petition says that Melbourne is not the kind of city that stands for anti-gay laws like St. Petersburg’s.

“It’s one of the most homophobic cities in the world, with laws that ban any kind of public support for LGBT equality – yet Melbourne is still an official ‘sister city’ with St. Petersburg despite their harsh new anti-gay laws,” it reads.

Since St. Petersburg’s laws were passed last year, Russia’s federal parliament has been debating similar laws on a national scale that received overwhelming support on its first reading.

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