Vodka boycott in U.S. spreads on concerns over gay rights in Russia
By Jonathan Kaminsky
(Reuters) - Gay rights activists in New York City dumped vodka onto the street on Wednesday to protest new laws in Russia targeting homosexuals, as a growing number of gay bar owners across the United States vowed to stop pouring Russian vodka.
"Boycotts are set for a reason. We're trying to influence change, and maybe change what's happening in Russia," said Chuck Hyde, general manager of Sidetrack, the largest gay bar in Chicago, which stopped carrying Stolichnaya about a week ago.
The boycott was called last week by gay rights activist and Seattle-based sex advice columnist Dan Savage in response to anti-gay violence and restrictive laws in Russia. Since then, owners of mostly gay bars from San Francisco to New York have vowed to stop serving Stolichnaya and other Russian vodka.
Gay rights advocates in New York City, carrying signs that read "Russian vodka: infused with hate," gathered outside the Russian consulate on Wednesday protesting Russia's stance on gay issues. They emptied bottles of Russian vodka onto the pavement.
The call to "dump Russian vodka" came after Russian investigators said in May that a 23-year-old man had been tortured and killed after revealing to a friend that he was gay.
In June, Russian president Vladimir Putin signed a law banning gay "propaganda," which critics have said effectively disallows all gay rights rallies and could be used to prosecute anyone voicing support for homosexuals. Putin also banned same-sex couples from adopting Russian children.
The boycott has focused heavily on Stolichnaya vodka, which is made from Russian ingredients, even though the company has said it supports gay rights.
In an open letter sent a day after Savage's call for a boycott, Val Mendeleev, chief executive of Stolichnaya's parent company the SPI Group, distanced his enterprise from the Kremlin's policies and emphasized that the Russian government has no ownership stake in the Luxembourg-based company. Continued...