Sarasota, Florida -- Sarasota is a city known for it's culture, it's beaches and it's laid back lifestyle. Ask most residents and they'll tell you, it's paradise in their city. Ask city leaders and they'll tell you - people are welcomed here with open arms.
Those same leaders say they have long strived for a culture of inclusion when it comes to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual Transgender community. In fact, Sarasota was the first in the county to establish a domestic partnership registry. It also has a discrimination ordinance in place.
Sarasota officials say they are shocked at the violence and barbaric treatments of members of the gay and lesbian community in Russia right now. The footage coming out of Russia shows brutal images of people beaten and punched in the streets for being gay.
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So, should the City of Sarasota, a place striving to for inclusion, share a sister city in Russia?
Right now, it does.
The City of Vladimir has a population of just over 345,000 people, and it sits roughly two hours east of Moscow. However, a petition is circulating online in Sarasota to cut ties with Vladimir.
"I'm horrified, I'm angry, I want to boycott the Winter Olympic games [in Russia]," says Scott George from the Community AIDS Network in Sarasota.
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George has been called one of the leading gay rights activists in Sarasota and has been fighting for inclusion for 45 years. His passion for the issue is palpable.
"I think the sister city relationship is important, but I also think we have to look at the reality of the situation. And, if the leaders of the city are condoning what is going on, I see no problems severing the relationship," said George.
City Commissioner Suzanne Atwell says she's seen the petition. But it's too early to make a decision. She says she is willing to listen and keep an open mind.
Atwell told 10 News, "Right now, I'm watching to see what happens. They have a right to think of this. We're very taken aback by this."
The sister city organization in Sarasota released this statement to 10 News about possibly cutting ties with Vladimir:
"The sister city organization was created to promote the development of citizen diplomats whose goal would be to support peace and tolerance among the peoples of the world. Breaking our tie with Vladimir would seem to the antithesis of his goal. Our relationship is with the city of Vladimir not the country of Russia."
So, in the end, who will be the ultimate decider on whether or not to cut ties between the City of Sarasota and Vladimir?
The Sister City organization will make it's recommendation at a city commission meeting next Wednesday, Aug. 21.