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Severing ties at odds with goals

Published: Monday, Aug. 5, 2013 1:15 a.m. CDT • Updated: Monday, Aug. 5, 2013 11:02 a.m. CDT

DIXON – Sister Cities International says severing ties with any city defeats the purpose of its mission.

This statement comes after Equality Illinois, an advocacy group for gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders, last week asked Illinois cities with sisters in Russia, including Dixon, to suspend ties with those cities because of Russian laws that discriminate against gays and lesbians.

Dixon, which has four international sister cities, entered the program with its relationship to Dikson, Siberia.

Russia has made international headlines with laws that ban the dissemination of information on nontraditional sexual relations and public marches.

Also, Randy Hannig, director of public policy at Equality Illinois, said gay rights activism has been met with violence in Russia.

Sister Cities International said in a statement on its Facebook page that it recognizes U.S. communities may have differing views of laws, policies, or practices in other countries that they believe may run against moral, ethical, or legal codes to which they ascribe.

“While every citizen should feel free to express their own opinions in keeping with his or her own conscience, the suspension of a sister city relationship due to disagreement over a government policy or practice can be counterproductive and contrary to the stated mission of sister city relationships promoting ‘peace through mutual respect, understanding, and cooperation – one individual, one community at a time,” the international program said.

President Mary Kane said in the news release that suspending sister city relationships closes a channel of communication through which meaningful dialogue may be held.

“Our policy is to encourage our members and U.S. communities to keep their sister city relationships active, especially when political issues threaten to disrupt the positive, constructive relationships that have been made,” Kane said.

Geoff Vanderlin, a past president of the Sister Cities Association in Dixon, said Dixon’s relationship with Dikson came during the Cold War when both the U.S. and former Soviet Union had many contrasting views on politics.

Dixon’s communication with Dikson has been scarce in the past 20 years, said David Nelson, the chairman of the Dikson, Russia committee, which is awaiting an email response to rebuild ties between the two.

“I personally believe we and they would benefit with more regular contact at this point, not less,” Nelson said. “Rather than end the communication, we may want to keep our fledgling relationship alive and let it grow. Citizen diplomacy and information-sharing are reasons the relationship was established decades ago.”

Dixon’s Sister Cities has not yet made any official decision regarding its relationship with Dikson.

Equality Illinois also is asking for a boycott of Russian trips or goods, saying many Chicago bars already have stopped buying Russian vodkas.

To attend

Dixon's Sister Cities next meets at 5:45 p.m. Aug. 20 at the Public Health and Safety building, 220 S. Hennepin Ave.

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