This week prominent economists and business leaders from around the globe will be gathering in Davos, Switzerland for the World Economic Forum. This serious event is designed to bring together political thought leaders to discuss policy solutions for the world’s biggest challenges, from poverty to climate change. This year, thanks to two major American campaign donors, LGBT rights will be placed at the forefront of the forum’s agenda.
Paul Singer and Dan Loeb were both big financial backers for Mitt Romney in 2012, despite being of different party affiliations (Singer is Republican whereas Loeb usually identifies as Democrat). The business leaders and philanthropists do however have a common cause, with both of them actively supporting LGBT rights. The pair was involved in the 2011 passage of gay marriage in New York. Singer also runs the American Unity PAC, which was created to pass pro-gay marriage laws. He also has a partnership with the Human Rights Campaign to highlight Republican sympathy to LGBT rights world wide.
Singer and Loeb’s presence in Davos is not without controversy. One of the featured speakers on the duo’s two panels is famous LGBT activist Masha Gessen, a gay mother of four and journalist, who has been hyper critical of Russian president Vladimir Putin’s anti-gay laws. She has written books on the jailing of members of the Pussy Riot for their pro-LGBT activism in Russia and the underground lives of homosexuals living in Russia.
Gessen’s presence is causing a stir due to the unwritten rule that the World Economic Forum is an event where divisive politics are tabled for a week. Russian officials attending the event, who are already facing criticism based on the country’s anti-gay policies in the weeks leading up to the Sochi Winter Olympics, will likely see Gessen’s appearance as another show of global condemnation for their domestic politics.
“Any gathering of business and political leaders from across the globe should include a spotlight on human rights. All of us convening here have an opportunity to move the needle for freedom of LGBT individuals in our countries and around the world. There was a void in Davos,” a source close to Singer told POLITICO. “That’s why Singer began reaching out to a number of players in the business world and in the LGBT advocacy community to pull this event together. It’s part of his overall partnership with the Human Rights Campaign.”
Gessen will be sitting on a panel entitled “Gay Rights — Progress and Backlash. Reports from Russia, Uganda, Jamaica,” which will discuss the variations in anti-gay policies around the globe. The other panel is called “The LGBT Agenda, US Politics, & US Foreign Policy” which both Singer and Loeb will sit on, as well as Microsoft executive vice president Brad Smith and HRC head Chad Griffin. CNN’s Fareed Zakaria will serve as moderator for both the panels.
[Image via the Huffington Post]