Stoli Vodka donates $300K to L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center

Sat. January 25, 2014 10:16 AM by

Los Angeles, CA - Stoli Group USA on Friday announced a $300,000 donation to support the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center's Leadership LAB program.

Leadership LAB (Learn, Act, Build) helps prepare the next generation of LGBT leaders to effectively advocate for equal rights.

"Over the last few years we've experienced tremendous gains in freedom and equality for LGBT Americans, but there is still much work to be done, especially in states where organizing for LGBT equality remains very challenging," Lorri L. Jean, CEO of the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center, said in a written statement. "And while we're also making gains internationally, there have been big and significant setbacks.Extremists, acknowledging they're losing the battle here, are expanding their influence in other countries by demonizing LGBT people and attacking our freedoms. Their influence must be countered. This extraordinary commitment by Stoli Group USA sets a terrific example for all corporations."

The announcement was accompanied by an op-ed from Stoli Group USA President John Esposito.

"Because we at Stoli – and all corporations that support equality – have a responsibility to help make a difference, we have been working with our long-standing partners in the LGBT community to evaluate opportunities to make a significant and strategic investment in the global future of the LGBT movement," Esposito wrote in The Advocate. "And that's why we have decided to partner with the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center by pledging $300,000 over the next three years to support a program that stands out for its potential to narrow this divide: its Leadership LAB initiative."

The donation follows an outcry by gay rights activists to boycott the brand over a recently enacted Russian law that prohibits the promotion of "gay propaganda" to minors.

Esposito reiterated that the Stolichnaya vodka sold outside Russia "is in no way affiliated with the Russian government."

"The responses to the attacks on LGBT rights in Russia show that our lives are global and interconnected," he wrote. "Some responded to the attacks on LGBT rights in Russia by boycotting Stoli. It's worth clarifying that SPI Group, which is in no way affiliated with the Russian government, has been the owner of the Stolichnaya brand outside of Russia since 1997. The Stolichnaya made in Russia for the local market is owned by a state-controlled entity. We feel it is important to raise our voice again and let the LGBT community know we share the same desire for justice and equality. And we are invested in achieving a brighter tomorrow for all."

Article provided in partnership with On Top Magazine