Luba Shvarts thinks IKEA’s decision to remove a feature on a lesbian couple and their baby from the Russian edition of its monthly magazine prevents people from seeing that “they are just the same as every other family.”
The Northeast Philadelphia resident from Moldova, which is part of the former Soviet Union, was among the 45,000 people who signed an online petition against the furniture and home furnishings company, protesting its decision to remove the content. On Monday, a handful of representatives from organizations that advocate for LGBT rights delivered the petition to the company’s U.S. headquarters in Conshohocken.
In response to the petition, IKEA released a statement saying that the company believes “in diversity and equality. Everyone is welcome at IKEA.”
The Russian government has received condemnation from around the world for its passage of a law in June that bans “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relationships.”
“This article appeared in 25 countries but not in Russia where a law prevents us from publishing it,” the IKEA statement read. “It is a law that has been widely criticized but one that we have to comply with.”
Luke Ellenberg, a member of the RUSA LGBT advocacy group, drove from New York to deliver the petition in Conshohocken. The 46-year-old social worker who met his husband at an LGBT synagogue in Manhattan said the petition was important because “the world cannot play by Vladimir Putin’s rules or else Putin will feel empowered and the gay community will be under the threat.”
Shvarts, a 37-year-old paralegal, did not come out until she left Moldova two decades ago. She attends services at the Lubavitcher Center in the Northeast. In religious settings, she said, she doesn’t feel that people accept her sexual orientation, though she joked that she doesn’t say, “Hi, I’m Luba. I’m gay.”
On treatment of gay people in Russia, she said, “They don’t know what it is and they are afraid of it, and they pick on something they don’t understand.”