News From Terre Haute, Indiana

August 14, 2013

EDITORIAL: Severing sister city relationship with Russian community unwise

The Tribune-Star

---- — Speaking out against discrimination aimed at any human being based on sexual orientation is a good thing, and we find no fault with the national organization MoveOn.Org doing so.

But we’re solidly on the side of reasonable people, such as former Terre Haute Mayor Judy Anderson, who think terminating valuable international relationships and partnerships in the name of protest is not the right way to go about it.

Last week, MoveOn.Org launched a petition drive urging American hometowns to sever “sister city” relationships with Russian cities over legally sanctioned discrimination against gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered individuals.

For more than 10 years, Terre Haute has nurtured a sister city relationship with the community of Tambov in Russia, where Tambov University is located. The sister city status first developed out of a student exchange program between the Tambov college and Indiana State University.

Anderson, who served as mayor from 2000 to 2003, visited Tambov as part of a goodwill trip in early 2001. To this day, she cherishes the time she spent with the people of Tambov, who also visited Terre Haute. She knows that governments can and will have disagreements, some bitter, over important issues, including human rights. But severing bonds that have been built between the people of individual communities does not accomplish anything productive.

“I would never, ever think about taking that sisterhood away,” Anderson told the Tribune-Star last week.

While the city doesn’t have any record of an official sister city relationship with Tambov, there is no doubt that one exists, at least among the people who participated in building it. It would be unfortunate to allow it to be sacrificed in a political or diplomatic battle.

To end a sister city relationship, it would probably require City Council attention. We urge local officials, however, to refrain from taking any action. There are better and more effective ways of supporting the important cause of gay rights in America and around the world than turning our backs on international friendships that have nothing to do with the issue.

Former Mayor Anderson is right. We hope her wisdom prevails.