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Russia Confirms Anti-Gay Laws Will Be Enforced At Sochi As IOC Seeks Special Suspension Of Those Laws For The Olympics

RussAmidst rampant confusion as to what Russia's official policy towards gay athletes and visitors to the Sochi games would be come February 2014, the Russian Interior Ministry seems to have clarified that the nation's anti-gay laws will in fact be enforced during the twenty-second winter Olympiad. According to Ria Novosti:

"Russia's Interior Ministry, which controls the police force, confirmed Monday that the country's controversial anti-gay law will be enforced during the Sochi 2014 Olympics."

"The law enforcement agencies can have no qualms with people who harbor a nontraditional sexual orientation and do not commit such acts [to promote homosexuality to minors], do not conduct any kind of provocation and take part in the Olympics peacefully," said an Interior Ministry statement issued on Monday.

It warned against this approach being mixed up with discrimination against gay people.

"Any discussion on violating the rights of representatives of nontraditional sexual orientations, stopping them from taking part in the Olympic Games or discrimination of athletes and guests of the Olympics according to their sexual orientation is totally unfounded and contrived," the statement added.

The head of Russia's National Olympic Committee Alexander Zhukov stated it plainly.

"If a person does not put across his views in the presence of children, no measures against him can be taken," Zhukov said. "People of nontraditional sexual orientations can take part in the competitions and all other events at the Games unhindered, without any fear for their safety whatsoever."

GerhIOC President Jacques Rogge previously said he would seek clarification and proper "translation" of Russia's laws from the Russian Federation before the IOC took a more definitive stance on the subject. With that clarification now seemingly upon us, it is unclear how Rogge and for that matter other members of the IOC as well as individual National Olympic Committees will respond. 

One IOC member, Gerhard Heiberg of Norway (pictured right), who helped organize the 1994 Lillehammer games, spoke out last week, issuing something of an ultimatum to Russia, according to Pink News. Heiberg remarked, "They have accepted the words of the Olympic Charter and the host city contract, so either they respect it or we have to say goodbye to them."

Reports have also emerged that the IOC is currently seeking a special suspension of Russia's anti-gay laws that would only last for the duration of the Olympics (approximately two weeks). While it is unclear whether the IOC's attempt to temporarily nullify Russia's anti-gay laws pre-dates the statement issued from the Interior Ministry, LGBT activists have been quick to attack such a temporary suspension. LGBT groups Queer Nation, #DumpRussianVodka and Rusa LGBT issued a press release denouncing the IOC's plan and invoked the fiery words of Russian LGBT activists in addition to those of Harvey Fierstein, a recent critic of the Russian regime:

“My family is being driven out of Russia because these laws allow the government to step in and take away the three children my partner and I are raising together,” said Masha Gessen, lesbian activist, journalist and the author of The Man Without a Face, the 2012 biography of Vladimir Putin. “Suspending these laws in Sochi for two weeks won’t help ordinary gay men and lesbians in the rest of Russia once the Olympics leaves town. The IOC is saying, in essence, that it is willing to work with a fascist government as long as international visitors are protected. This is a profoundly immoral position.”

Alexei Davydov, a Moscow-based activist whose friend, Gleb Latnik, was kidnapped and beaten nearly to death after organizing a protest against the laws in Yekaterinburg, Russia’s third-largest city, described the circumstances as dire.

“To be gay and Russian is to live in fear,” Davydov said. “We are being harassed, arrested, jailed, attacked, and murdered merely for being gay.”

6a00d8341c730253ef01901e742291970b-250wiActor Harvey Fierstein, whose July 22 editorial in The New York Times was among the voices that launched the global Boycott Russia movement, called for the repeal of Russia’s anti-gay law in a statement to Queer Nation.

“Finally the IOC realized that the Games cannot go on while these anti-gay laws stand. But suspension of these laws for two weeks is not enough,” he said. “Our lives, our families, our freedom are endangered while laws like these are tolerated anywhere in the world. We demand the repeal of Putin's propagandistic legislation. We now put the world community on notice that we are no longer available to be your scapegoats. Enough.”

While Fierstein praised President Barack Obama for his recent supportive rhetoric, he slammed world leaders, including Obama, for their inaction.

“I was glad to see President Obama upset by the abuse the LGBT community is suffering at the hands of the Russian government, but outrage is not enough,” Fierstein said. “These are not bullies saying unkind things in a schoolyard. These are heads of state enacting a national policy of bigotry aimed at limiting the freedoms of an entire minority.”

Previously, President Obama expressed his concern over the human rights abuses in Russia but stated his belief that a boycott of the games themselves was not the best way forward. While others like British PM David Cameron concur, notable dissenters such as Stephen Fry have also made their opinion known. 

(Photo of Gerhard Heiberg via Pink News)

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  1. Where lot's of money's at stake it will trump morality every single time. Governments and corporations (like the IOC and NBC that run governments) could not care less that lgbt russians are being tortured, beaten and murdered. It's the way of the world.

    Posted by: Molc | Aug 12, 2013 5:14:00 PM

  2. The Evil Empire once again lives up to it's name.

    Posted by: jarago | Aug 12, 2013 5:16:45 PM

  3. There is evil, ever around,
    System of government
    Quite incidental.

    Posted by: Joseph2 | Aug 12, 2013 5:30:26 PM

  4. Boycotting the Olympics advertisers Coke, McDonald's Procter and Gamble to name a few will send a message that they will not profit from tyranny.

    Posted by: Jeff | Aug 12, 2013 5:33:11 PM

  5. Screw these bigots. Boycott these pigs.

    Posted by: Mmike1969 | Aug 12, 2013 5:35:44 PM

  6. Nothing good is going to come from this. It is a little scary to know what horrors may unfold during the Olympics. We live in a sick world.

    Posted by: Stephen | Aug 12, 2013 5:59:21 PM

  7. If NBC's televised opening of the Sochi Winter Olympics are whitewashed of this LGBT issue, I'll not watch the rest of the broadcast or support any of NBC's Olympic sponsors. And I hope gay organizations worldwide raise Holy Hell over it. It's time the world knows we're mad as hell and we're not going to take it anymore.

    Posted by: HadenoughBS | Aug 12, 2013 6:00:04 PM

  8. Harvey doth protest too much. Send him back in time to his high school if he really wants to feel the heat. Giving these obnoxious old gay survivors their moment in the sun reminds people why they couldn't stand gays in the first place. Why not admit you're afraid of the Russians. That might make for a more productive response.

    Posted by: Cold War | Aug 12, 2013 6:13:34 PM

  9. If Russia intends to hold their laws over the athletes and guests in their country for the Games, and the IOC keeps the Games in Russia, then they are even more heinous and sick than the host country.

    Posted by: Bart | Aug 12, 2013 6:16:16 PM

  10. The problem with Russian "law" is that the Russians are so accustomed to writing laws with statements that are so vague and
    subjective, that they can arrest anyone at anytime. In this law, it is illegal for gays and supporters of gay rights "[to] conduct any kind of provocation". Well, if you're a cop and a gay hater and you feel provoked by the presence of a known homosexual, is that a provocation!? I'm sure plenty of Russian cops would feel justified in arresting a person for just existing.

    Posted by: Dan Cobb | Aug 12, 2013 6:19:42 PM

  11. What I'd like to see done is put legal pressure on the IOC to withdraw from Russia and award the contract to the second bidder country. Allow an additional year (2015) to fulfil, and let Russia eat the bill for Sochi.

    Posted by: Kev C | Aug 12, 2013 6:20:45 PM

  12. How exactly do you enforce this law? Does it mean if someone is wearing a rainbow pin, shirt, etc. at the stadium and there is one child present does that count as breaking the law? This country is so ass backwards. I regret ever stepping foot there 8 years ago for a family vacation.

    Posted by: Will | Aug 12, 2013 6:27:50 PM

  13. It seems to me there will be children in attendance at the games. If NBC is interviewing a gold medalist, and he/she thanks a same-sex partner for supporting their athleticism, the gold medalist will be in violation of Russian law. My position remains unchanged: #MoveTheOlympics

    Posted by: Michael | Aug 12, 2013 6:27:50 PM

  14. If you're gay take a pass on the Winter Olympics. Have you seen Disney Orlando?

    Posted by: Mike | Aug 12, 2013 6:42:40 PM

  15. Yes, let there be rainbow pins, T shirts, bandannas, bracelets, kissing hugging and in-your-face freedom and equality.......that's what we do and that's what we are.
    Let the Russians arrest everyone; let the various embassies go crazy with the malice of the corrupt Putin; let the Fascists be exposed.
    WE must not go quietly to the camps......
    And unless we scream blue bloody murder now then we abandoning those unfortunate gays living in the vile country.

    Posted by: JackFknTwist | Aug 12, 2013 6:43:42 PM

  16. There's no confusion about what should be done if you've got any guts and half a pint of self-respect. Boycott and divest! Don't listen to Barack Obama, the most lily-livered President in memory.

    Posted by: Stuffed Animal | Aug 12, 2013 6:45:20 PM

  17. The good news is that the IOC has been trying its best to sweep this under the rug in time for Sochi, and Russia won't go along with that. The stage is set for the world to see Russia's true colors. The question now is will anyone attending really have the courage to protest?

    Alas, my prediction is that the IOC will back down, and if any athlete protests, the IOC will disqualify him/her for political activity. NBC will bend over backwards to please its sponsors, who will be screaming at them behind the scenes to squelch any controversy. They will devote next to zero time to any protest, just enough to tar anyone disqualified as a selfish, troublemaking attention seeker and a lousy sportsman.

    Posted by: JJ | Aug 12, 2013 7:35:03 PM

  18. It is almost guaranteed that the Russian authorities will handle any overt support for LGBT equality BADLY. The whole civilized world will be watching and Russia will come out of these games looking like the thuggish backward country it is.

    Posted by: andrew | Aug 12, 2013 7:44:39 PM

  19. The Minister has been told to say this and it's a bluff. If the IOC calls them on it and threatens to move the game he will be overruled by higher ups. His is the not last word.

    Wait and see what Gerhard Heiberg says. The new Russian laws were enacted after the Games were awarded and are in violation of the IOC Charter so he does have the right to move them.

    Moving them avoids a showdown. Russia can claim to be the victim. New location (perhaps without Russia) would be a huge equality affirming celebration.

    Trouble is that Russian LGBT would be blamed for the loss by Russian homophobes.

    The hard line to take is that ultimately you have to stand up to a bully. Sooner or later you have to so it may as well be sooner.

    Posted by: JONES | Aug 12, 2013 8:00:41 PM

  20. Why do the pro boycott posters on this site continue to ignore the voice of LGBT Russians? The Russian LGBT Network has issued a lengthy statement that ends with the following quote: "Don't boycott the Olympics - boycott homophobia. Stand in solidarity with people in Russia and bring LGBT pride and values of human rights and freedoms to the games in Sochi"? It seems that the pro boycotters have their own agenda regardless of what the Russian LGBT people are saying through their activists and leaders.

    Posted by: andrew | Aug 12, 2013 8:39:12 PM

  21. The world should boycott but it's all about $$$.... Russia isn't going to do crap to any foreigner during the games, it would immediately be plastered over the news... they're just huffing and puffing.

    Posted by: Gerry | Aug 12, 2013 8:40:36 PM

  22. they're damned if they do & doomed if they don't, if they don't follow up their own laws then they look foolish if they do then the international incidents that will occur puts another nail in their coffins.

    Posted by: letgomyego | Aug 12, 2013 8:54:21 PM

  23. The IOC is the organization that last weighed in on LGBT equality by forcing the Gay Olympics to change its name to the Gay Games, just like they did with the Special Olympics.... Oh, wait.

    We can't wait for or trust them to do the right thing now either.

    Posted by: mattheww | Aug 12, 2013 9:06:48 PM

  24. "Suspension" of the laws is elitist and does nothing for the rights of the Russian LGBT population. Asking for such sheds the most self-absorbed of light on the IOC and anyone joining them in this self-serving and irresponsible request.

    Posted by: Kile Ozier | Aug 12, 2013 9:15:08 PM

  25. Vancouver 2014

    Posted by: Kile Ozier | Aug 12, 2013 9:15:35 PM

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