The Washington Times - September 6, 2013, 12:41PM

President Obama told Russian gay rights leaders and other activists Friday that fighting for social justice helped him to get elected president.

“I got my start as a community organizer,” Mr. Obama said during a meeting with activists in St. Petersburg, Russia. “I got elected president by engaging people at a grassroots level.”

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Mr. Obama, who has criticized Russia’s new anti-gay laws that outlaw “homosexual propaganda,” met with the director of a Russian LGBT network and others at the conclusion of the G-20 summit. He said the work of such activists is “critically important” to an open society.

“I’m very proud of their work,” Mr. Obama said. “Part of good government is making sure we’re creating a space for civil society.”

Russian human rights leaders praised Mr. Obama for meeting with them.

“Engaging civil society has been a hallmark of this administration and President Obama demonstrated that commitment again today as he met with Russian gay rights and civil society leaders to learn more about the challenges they face,” said Human Right First’s Innokenty Grekov. “Today’s meeting was a terrific first step.”

Mr. Grekov called on Mr. Obama to “double down on U.S. efforts to address the concerns of civil society and LGBT activists, and continue to raise these issues in the administration’s bilateral engagement with Russia.”