Cohen, who has previously hosted the Miss Universe pageant, told E! News’ Giuliana Rancic that he is “concerned for his safety” in Russia, and thus turned down the gig. Rancic has previously hosted the pageant alongside Cohen.
“The law is that anyone under suspicion of homosexuality can be arrested,” Cohen explained to Rancic, adding he “didn’t feel right as a gay man stepping foot into Russia.”
Last month, Russia implemented a law that bans “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations around minors.” Law, signed by Russian prez Vladimir Putin, also bars the public discussion of gay rights and relationships anywhere children may hear it.
The ban has led to outcries from civil rights groups who call the implementation severely discriminatory. Francesco Pascuzzi organized a Change.org petition that called for the Miss Universe Organization to “move the 2013 pageant from Russia because of anti-gay laws.” Over 23,000 have signed the petition.
“Andy Cohen’s decision to boycott hosting the Miss Universe pageant sends a very loud and clear message that Russia needs to be held accountable for its brutal and violent crackdown on gay rights,” said Pascuzzi. “There are more than 20,000 people who’ve signed my petition, and we’re going to keep the pressure on the Miss Universe pageant to pull out of Moscow, in order to make sure all contestants and spectators are safe.”
The Miss Universe Pageant airs in November on NBC. The Peacock was not available for comment at the time of this story.