NASA, Rice University Uninvite Anti-LGBTQ Russian Leader After Backlash

NASA, Rice University Uninvite Anti-LGBTQ Russian Leader After Backlash

NASA has “indefinitely postponed” a scheduled appearance from a Russian leader following controversy over his anti-LGBTQ views.

Dmitry Rogozin, Russia’s former deputy prime minister, was set to visit NASA’s Houston facility in early 2019 at the behest of its Trump-appointed head, Jim Bridenstine. Bridenstine lifted current sanctions on Rogozin to allow the meeting. The leader was barred from the U.S. in 2014 following his involvement in the annexation of Crimea.

Adding fuel to the fire were the myriad attacks on LGBTQ people during Rogozin’s long career in public life.

When Madonna spoke out against Russia’s prohibition of Pride events during a 2012 concert in St. Petersburg, Rogozin called the singer a “whore.” He has also claimed that LGBTQ identity is only a matter of Pride for those who have “nothing else to be proud of.”

After Austrian drag queen Conchita Wurst won the Eurovision Song Contest in 2014, Rogozin warned Russians that it was a sign of things to come should the country embrace the Western ideals of the European Union.

“[His win] showed supporters of European integration their European future: a bearded girl,” he tweeted.

Initially, NASA spokeswoman Megan Powers defended Rogozin’s visit as a continuation of the long history of cooperation between the U.S. and  Russian space programs. Since 2018, the 55-year-old has served as head of Roscosmo, which oversees the nation’s aeronautics division.

“NASA has historically invited the head of the Russian space agency to visit the United States,” she said in a statement first shared with Politico.

“Following this precedent, and Administrator Bridenstine’s October visit to Russia to participate in crew launch activities to the International Space Station,” Powers continued, “NASA invited the Director-General of Roscosmos to visit NASA facilities in the United States and discuss our ongoing space-related cooperation.”

But after NASA announced the event had been pulled from its calendar, Powers claimed it was being indefinitely postponed. “A new date has not been identified,” she said.

Bridenstine confirmed the invite had been “rescinded.”

“We had heard from numerous senators suggesting that this was not a good idea,” he told the Washington Post, adding that he “wanted to be accommodating to the interests of the senators.”

The government’s space program is just the second entity to rescind Rogozin’s invitation following the backlash to his visit. Despite reports the Russian national would be speaking at Rice University, Bridenstine’s alma mater alleged no such event would be taking place.

The Houston college has “no plans” to bring him to campus, Rice spokesman Doug Miller told the Houston Chronicle.

Bridenstine has yet to comment on that announcement.

GLAAD celebrated victory on Monday after loudly calling on NASA and Rice to reject Rogozin’s virulently homophobic record. In a statement, President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis claimed these entities “did the right thing by standing up to the anti-LGBTQ activism that’s become a hallmark of the Trump administration.”

“Dmitry Rogozin’s anti-LGBTQ animus has no place visiting the United States,” she said, “and it’s reassuring that fair-minded people put marginalized communities and their safety ahead of the Trump Administration’s toxic political agenda.”

As INTO previously noted, the controversy isn’t surprising given that Bridenstine’s views on LGBTQ people don’t differ greatly from Rogozin’s.

The 43-year-old has referred to the Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling on marriage equality as a “disappointment.” Bridenstine added that allowing same-sex couples to wed is “contrary to millennia of human experience.”

The Trump appointee is also opposed to LGBTQ inclusion in the Boy Scouts and affirming bathroom access for trans students in schools.

Bridenstine is also a climate change denier.

Image via Getty


Nico Lang

Nico Lang is a staff writer for INTO, covering news, politics, and global LGBTQ issues.