MOSCOW - Russia’s leading gay activist said yesterday that he was disappointed that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton met with an outspoken foe of gay rights during her two-day visit and did not decry homophobia.
Clinton attended a statue unveiling of Walt Whitman at Moscow State University with Mayor Yuri Luzhkov. Luzhkov has blocked all attempts to hold gay pride marches in Moscow, once saying they “can be described in no other way than as satanic.’’
Clinton did not mention of the issue during the ceremony. Some biographers have described Whitman as homosexual and US gay activists have claimed him as a symbol of their movement.
“Just as Pushkin and Whitman reset poetry we are resetting our relations for the 21st century,’’ Clinton said. A statue of Russian poet Alexander Pushkin was built at George Washington University, in Washington, D.C., in 2000.
It was not clear whether Luzhkov was aware of Whitman’s status as a gay icon, and sponsors said they were honoring Whitman for his contributions to literature.
“Whitman transcended his sexuality in his art and I would like to thank Mayor Luzhkov for welcoming him in his city and have absolutely nothing to say about those things,’’ said James W. Symington, a former four-time congressman for Missouri and representative of the American-Russian Cultural Cooperation Foundation.
Gay activist Nikolai Alexeyev said yesterday that he was disappointed Clinton did not discuss discrimination against gays.
“Russia is supposed to be a democracy and she said nothing,’’ he said.
Alexeyev had called on Clinton to denounce what he called entrenched and degrading homophobic attitudes in Russia.