Thomas Roberts   |  November 06, 2013

#RobertsInRussia - Day One

As marriage equality advocates in the U.S. trumpet another victory in Illinois, recent arrests of two Norwegian journalists in Russia are shining a different kind of spotlight on that country’s anti-gay climate.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

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>>> marriage equality advocates in illinois are celebrating a major victory now that the illinois house has approved a long delayed same-sex marriage bill. governor pat quinn is expected to sign that bill by the end of the month. once signed, illinois becomes the 15th state to recognize same-sex marriage. last night president obama praised legislators in his former home state.

>>> as marriage equality advocates in the united states look to illinois as another triumph in their fight, the recent arrests of two norwegian journalists in russia is once again putting a spotlight on that country's anti-gay climate. two norwegian journalists were detained on their way to cover the sochi preparations, the site of the winter olympics has been plagued by the country's recent passage of an anti-gay law. our thomas roberts is in russia . he's there all week co-hosting the miss universe pageant . he's also getting a firsthand look at the impact russia 's laws are having on the lgbt community ahead of the sochi winter olympics . thomas , good to see you again. first of all, what are you hearing from those on the forefront of the fight against vladimir putin 's anti-gay stances?

>> craig, it really is a taboo subject here in russia to bring up the fact that these propaganda laws even exist, to discuss that there is a distinction between the classes here. and right now because of the anti-gay propaganda laws it does make the lgbt community a second class citizen. now, i had the opportunity to catch up with 38-year-old anton , who is a popular political commentator on a pro-kremlin cable station. when you came out on the air, it sent shock waves through the air and it's left him professionally sidelined ever since.

>> i'm sitting home without job and actually without money.

>> because of --

>> because i said that i am gay and the same person like president putin .

>> so you had just had enough, you were fed up.

>> totally.

>> and when you decided to make this public statement, did you think about the consequences that might come?

>> sure.

>> and how did you adapt to that line of thinking then, if you knew that the consequences would be this --

>> because it's time. now it's time to be open. and i thought -- i thought that that -- that it was my attempt, it was my attempt to rush g -- russian gay people , to russian people , to all russian people , because it's not good gay rights , it's about human rights .

>> reporter: now, he said his story has inspired some other people to come out as well. but since it's such a taboo subject here in the country it hasn't elicited a lot of responses with a lot of other people with name recognition coming out. but, craig, anton says that he has no wish to leave his country. he is 100% committed to staying here and feels that he has to see this change through. he also doesn't want to see people boycott the sochi olympics . he feels like that would be boycotting the seven million lgbt russians living here. while there was talk of other countries offering asylum because of the anti-gay propaganda laws, it remains to be seen how many russians would actually do that. but anton is staying for sure. i just have to say this is a remarkable young guy. i mean he's 38 years old and right now he's been without a job for most of the year because of coming out. but there was this great sadness in his eyes. hopefully it came through so you could see it.

>> it did.

>> great sadness in his eyes about losing his job, but also great pride in the fact that he has taken this on. and it's a real integration of the spirit, of the person that he is. to be walking around with his head up very high but knowing that he paid a high price for it professionally by just living his truth.

>> hey, thomas , as an outsider there, how visible is the impact of russia 's -- of those anti- gay laws , how visible is it as an outsider.

>> reporter: it's interesting because i'm trying to come in with a clean perspective and get everybody's take on it. it seems as if the variables of how everybody understands what the propaganda law and what it means, it seems so vague. and people don't really understand. there are some people that say that the west is overreacting. there are other people that would say that the west is underreacting to this news. so it's been a fast 14 hours , i think now that i've been on the ground so i continue to educate, i continue to gather and i'm going to bring you what i find. so bear with me as i get back out there and find more for you.

>> thomas roberts , thank you so much, sir. do appreciate you, as always. be safe there. thomas roberts in moscow. we'll see you again tomorrow. of course thomas there to host the miss universe pageant . remember, you can check out thomas ' video diary. he's going to keep updating that diary at thomasroberts.msnbc.com. you can also join the discussion on the agenda setters page there. you can get realtime updates on twitter, facebook, instagram as well. and the hash tag, #robertsinrussia. we'll be right back. there are