Russian LGBT Groups Ask Apple to Break With Anti-Gay Businessman

by Jason St. Amand

National News Editor

Tuesday January 7, 2014

More than 15 LGBT organizations have teamed up to urge Apple officials to cut ties with Euroset, the largest phone retailer in Russia, after the company's creative director came under fire last month for saying gays should be shoved alive into a furnace, according to a new report by Mother Jones.

Ivan Okhlobystin's comments were made at a "spiritual talks" event in Novosibirsk, Russia, on Dec. 8 and instantly made headlines around the world.

"I myself would shove all live gays into a furnace," Okhlobystin, 47, who was also a popular actor in Russia for staring in the country's version of "Scrubs," said. "This is Sodom and Gomorrah, I as a believer in God can not treat this indifferently, this is a live threat to my kids!... I do not want my kids to think that faggots are normal. This is lavender fascism. If a person can not choose someone of an opposite sex for procreation -- this is an overt sign of mental abnormality, so they should be denied of voting rights."

The activists wrote an open letter to Apple CEO Tom Cook on Jan. 5, pointing out why hate speech, especially in Russia, is dangers to the country's LGBT community.

"[Okhlobystin's] statements have been enthusiastically published by the Kremlin's propaganda press and distributed across entire Russia just adding additional fuel to the rampant homophobic campaign that already resulted in at least 26 murders and countless hate crimes against Russian LGBT population [sic]."

The activists also ask Cook to "set Apple as an example of a corporate citizen who supports basic human rights."

Mother Jones reports the collation is turning to Apple since they did not get much of a response from Okhlobystin's employer. On Dec. 26, six LGBT rights groups wrote to Euroset President Alexander Malis, asking him to "clarify how [Okhlobystin's] views are aligned with the values and principals of Euroset company, and to make a statement on inadmissibility of bullying and violence based on prejudice."

Malis did respond, however, and told Russian newspaper Izvestia, "Ivan expressed his personal opinion, and we will not fire him for that. Of course, we are against burning anyone in furnaces," according to Queer Russia.

The LGBT groups also plan to talk with other Western cell phone companies that work with Euroset, like Google and Samsung.

A few days after his original remarks, Okhlobystin replied to a Twitter follower, who asked how his statements were supposed to be understood.

"[There's is] too much pathos. It all sounded much simplier (sic). But the meaning is transmitted correctly. Everyone has a right to have a personal opinion," he wrote. He later added: "For a man there are only two options available to have an attitude toward sodomites: either acceptance or rejection. Given the aggression with which sodomites dictate their will to the world, there can not be some middle way. If you continue to flirt with sodomites, citing the rules of international, civil or criminal law -- it means to be cunning and violating the law of God."

"Putting it simple -- to serve the Devil. Even non-participation in the solution of this problem is a betrayal of God, whatever numerous and often conflicting "rights" claim, the actor continued. "Plus the existence of official organizations which sodomites have in all their forms, from homosexuals to pedophiles -- it is a direct insult to the feelings of believers in God, and therefore it should be prosecuted."

Apple officials have yet to respond to the letter or its relationship with Euroset. Apple, however, has long championed for LGBT rights and pushed for marriage equality in Washington state.

You can read the letter in full over at Mother Jones.

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