The LA Times has an interesting piece on the continuing clash between Sacramento’s gay community and the thousands of evangelical Slavic immigrants who have relocated there in recent years.
With as many as 100,000 newcomers from republics such as Russia, Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus, the Sacramento region has one of the nation’s largest concentrations of Soviet immigrants. Most began arriving in the late 1980s — about a third of them conservative evangelical Christians seeking religious freedom.
The influx has created a thriving Russian community with Russian-language newspapers, cable TV and radio shows, as well as 70 Slavic churches — nearly all adherents of a fundamentalist creed that condemns homosexuality.
Those beliefs, preached from the pulpit and voiced in Russian-language media, did not attract much attention until 2005, when a vocal crowd of Slavic evangelicals mounted a protest at the state Capitol against same-sex marriage.
In the years since, they have become the most aggressive anti-gay contingent in the region. Holding signs and wearing T-shirts proclaiming “Sodomy is a Sin,” they have mounted protests against state legislation, rallied at school board meetings and picketed fundraisers for politicians backed by gay-rights groups.
Sometimes their protests have taken a more personal tack. Nathan Feldman, 30, said Slavic protesters have shoved him and spit on him at gay-pride events. Feldman said he lost his job at a jewelry store after a Ukrainian co-worker discovered he was gay and lied to get him fired. That wasn’t all. A vandal scrawled graffiti on a trash dumpster outside his apartment: “Nathan Feldman, Die for AIDS.”
Last year a 26 year-old gay Fijian immigrant, Satender Singh, was killed by a single punch after a group of nearby Russians objected to his flamboyant ways while celebrating a job promotion with friends at a public park.
Andrey Vusik, 29, fresh from morning church services with his young children in tow, stared with disgust as Singh danced and hugged the other men while their wives giggled. To the Russian, Singh seemed rude and inappropriate, a gay man putting on an outrageous public display.
Angry stares led to an afternoon of traded insults. As the long day slid toward dusk, the tall Russian immigrant approached with a friend to demand an apology. Singh refused. Vusik threw a single punch. Singh’s head smacked into a concrete walkway. The joyful young man with the musical laugh died four days later of brain injuries.
With the violent and anti-gay Watchmen On The Walls recruiting heavily in the local Slavic community, gay activists are concerned about violence at next month’s pride events in Sacramento. The Southern Poverty Law Center lists the Watchmen as a hate group, along with the Aryan Nation and the Golden State Skinheads.