Coca-Cola has today (Monday 27 January) been removed from the Out in the City and G3 Magazine Awards shortlist because of the company’s sponsorship of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games and its unwillingness to express any explicit criticism or concern about the new homophobic legislation in Russia.

Until today, Coca-Cola had been shortlisted in the Brand of the Year category ahead of the gay lifestyle magazines’ annual awards, but despite repeated requests, the drinks giant has refused to take a stand against the persecution of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) Russians.

Sarah Garrett, Square Peg Media’s managing director said: ‘It is bitterly disappointing that Coca-Cola has not listened to the collective voice of the global gay community who are horrified by the Putin government’s anti-gay and repressive policies.

‘Brands like Coke should be making a stand against the demonisation of gay people by withdrawing sponsorship for the Winter Olympics. Refusing to do so is a slap in the face to the international gay community.’

Coca-Cola described themselves in a statement as ‘one of the world’s most inclusive brands.’

‘We value and celebrate diversity,’ they said. ‘We have long been a strong supporter of the LGBT community and have advocated for inclusion, equality and diversity through both our policies and practices. We do not condone intolerance or discrimination of any kind anywhere in the world.

Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said: ‘I would have expected Coke to make a simple statement such as: “Coca Cola is gravely concerned about new Russian legislation that discriminates against the LGBT community. We deplore the homophobic violence that is taking place in Russia.” I don’t understand why they feel unable to say this.

‘Hopefully, this will send a signal to Coke to be more careful and respectful when making future advertising and sponsorship decisions.’

Dubbed Britain’s ‘gay Oscars’, the Out In The City and G3 magazine awards pay tribute to the individuals who have made a positive difference to the lives for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the UK.