Megadonors Paul Singer and Dan Loeb are planning to use the typically staid World Economic Forum at Davos later this week to make a statement about gay rights, flying in LGBT activists from around the globe, including a major critic of Russian President Vladmir Putin, POLITICO has learned.
Singer and Loeb, partnering with the Human Rights Campaign, have organized an event with two panels at Davos that are dedicated to the international LGBT rights agenda. A featured attendee at one of the panels will be Masha Gessen, a lesbian mother of four and a journalist and activist who has been deeply critical of Putin and of Russia’s new anti-gay law.
“There is systematic repression of human rights of gays and lesbians in a number of countries represented at the World Economic Forum,” a source close to Singer said of the panels, which have a range of sponsors from both sides of the political spectrum. Among the corporate sponsors are Microsoft and Time Warner.
“Any gathering of business and political leaders from across the globe should include a spotlight on human rights. All of us convening here have an opportunity to move the needle for freedom of LGBT individuals in our countries and around the world. There was a void in Davos,” the source said. “That’s why Singer began reaching out to a number of players in the business world and in the LGBT advocacy community to pull this event together. It’s part of his overall partnership with [Human Rights Campaign].”
One panel is entitled, “Gay Rights — Progress and Backlash. Reports from Russia, Uganda, Jamaica.” The other is called “The LGBT Agenda, US Politics, & US Foreign Policy” and features Singer, Loeb, Microsoft executive vice president Brad Smith and HRC head Chad Griffin. Both are moderated by CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, and there will be remarks by the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, according to a source familiar with the planning.
But the presence of Gessen is likely to create the biggest stir. She has written forthcoming books on the aftermath of the jailing of members of the punk band Pussy Riot and on the lives of gay couples in Russia. She also wrote “The Man without a Face: the Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin.”
Gessen is attempting to move her family to the United States because of the new anti-gay laws in Russia, which Putin has defended as aimed at protecting children from gays. Gay relationships had been decriminalized in Russia two decades earlier after the Soviet Union fell.
The panels that Singer is co-sponsoring are part of an initiative he launched through the Human Rights Campaign late last year to focus on gay rights globally, but also to highlight Republicans who are sympathetic to LGBT causes.