Congress passed a bipartisan resolution on Tuesday condemning anti-LGBTQ persecution and violence in Chechnya.
House resolution 351 was introduced on May 23 by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Florida Republican who has an out transgender son and is a frequent advocate for LGBTQ rights. Ros-Lehtinen is also a member of the House LGBT Equality Caucus.
The resolution calls on the Russian Federation to investigate and halt the reported state violence against gay and bisexual men in Chechnya and asks the United States government to “demand the release of individuals wrongly detained.”
After the resolution passed, Ros-Lehtinen had strong words for the government of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“We will continue to stand united with the LGBT community and shine a bright light on these atrocities, which are encouraged by the evil Putin regime in Russia, in order to help ensure that those who are responsible for these crimes are held to account for their despicable actions,” Ros-Lehtinen said in a statement.
Other members of the House LGBT Equality Caucus celebrated the passage on Tuesday.
“I’m proud that the House passed this strong resolution condemning the recent violence targeting gay men in Chechnya. Now, it’s critical that we do more to ensure those fleeing horrific violence can relocate somewhere safe,” LGBT Caucus Co-Chair Rep. David Cicilline, Democrat of Rhode Island, said. “This is an important step, but there is much more work left to be done.”
The House resolution comes nearly three months after the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta first reported that members of Chechen law enforcement were targeting gay and bisexual men. According to reports gathered by journalists and the Russian LGBT Network, an advocacy nonprofit, roughly 100 LGBTQ men were initially captured by authorities and taken to a detention center where they were beaten and tortured — sometimes to death.
Men who escaped the reported anti-LGBTQ persecution campaign in Chechnya fled to Russia, telling reporters and human rights organizations the harrowing details of the abuses they’d faced at the hands of what they believed were police and the military.
“They dragged me out of the car, started to beat me, humiliate me,” said a Chechen man named Ilya in an interview with French news agency Agence-France Presse (AFP). “They were saying that I was a f****t, a gay person and that such people shouldn’t exist in Chechnya.”
As the news spread, the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations issued statements condemning the reported violence and calling on Russia to investigate.
Now, the House LGBT Equality Caucus wants the White House to take action.
“It is now up to President Trump, Secretary of State Tillerson, and our United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley to follow through on the consensus of the House,” LGBT Equality Caucus Vice Chair Rep. Alan Lowenthal said, “and bring as much domestic and international political pressure as possible on the Russian government to rein in these deplorable human rights violations.”