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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. If the International Olympic Committee does not move the games, they are saying that oppression and bigotry are OK. I will not watch the games on TV, and I will not buy any product of the advertisers for at least one year.

    Posted by: Jerry6 | Aug 12, 2013 9:52:05 PM

  2. Like the NCAA, IOC has become a joke. All they care about is the money and not the athlete. I would be moving to a new venue!

    Posted by: Randy | Aug 12, 2013 10:06:48 PM

  3. What a joke!! Does anyone have a list of the Olympic sponsors? I want to make sure I'm not purchasing any products that sponsor this thing from going on.

    Posted by: MickyFlip | Aug 12, 2013 10:25:27 PM

  4. @Michael: what would actually happen in the scenario you suggested is unclear. For that reason, I think the IOC should provide a list of 20 to 50 questions containing a number of examples of innocuous behavior on the part of athletes and spectators and ask the Russians to state exactly what will happen in these cases. It's far easy to determine what the Russians would actually do if you have their response to such questions (and there needs to be an agreement holding them to it.)

    I can see why the IOC might want to steer clear of pushing host countries to change policies that we think are repressive - there are lots of groups pushing all sorts of things, so if we push the IOC to support gay rights (which of course I think is an important human rights issue), some vegan group might try to use that as a precedent to push animal rights and insist on a vegan diet for all athletes. For managerial reasons, the IOC needs a clear, easy to understand policy that people at a lower level in the organization can follow, and keeping it simple sometimes means you (as part of a large organization) can't address every issue that you personally would like to address.

    I think the best argument the IOC can use is to say that the IOC's charter requires them to maintain a level playing field for all athletes, so that one does not get an unfair advantage over others. If straight male athletes can get support from their wives or girlfriends, and straight female athletes can get support from their husbands or boyfriends, then gay athletes should be able to get support to the same extent from their husbands or boyfriends. And if the Russians won't accept that, well, too bad for them - the games will have to be moved elsewhere. And if the Russians lie to keep the event in Sochi and then renege, there should be international protests, economic boycotts by governments, not just individuals, and loss of diplomatic relations.

    Posted by: Bill | Aug 12, 2013 10:46:42 PM

  5. This is how the extermination of the Jews in Europe started with the Nazis and once again the world remains silent.

    Posted by: Steve | Aug 12, 2013 11:29:22 PM

  6. It's frightening to even think about, but this has all the markings of a Summer 1936 Olympics repeat, with Hitler presiding over the opening ceremonies and man of the events. Would a 2-week suspension of Nazi policies have meant much? Right. The IOC will have blood on their hands after Sochi - and MUST be held accountable. Perhaps they need a refresher in world history? Or perhaps $$ simply trumps all else, hundreds of thousands of petition signatures mean nothing, and nothing meaningful will change. The IOC is sad and pathetic.

    Posted by: KC | Aug 12, 2013 11:37:21 PM

  7. P.S. - check this out. It gave me the willies:

    And a quote from an article about the 1936 Olympics and the political landscape in Germany:

    "Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939. Within just three years of the Olympiad, the "hospitable" and "peaceable" sponsor of the Games unleashed World War II, a conflict that resulted in untold destruction. With the conclusion of the Games, Germany's expansionist policies and the persecution of Jews and other "enemies of the state" accelerated, culminating in the Holocaust."

    Any questions, IOC?!?

    Posted by: KC | Aug 12, 2013 11:51:42 PM

  8. @KC: that argument is an example of a post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy. Just because one event preceded another does not mean they were causally related. Actually, the most likely result of snubbing Hitler in 1936 would have been for him to explain away an embarrassing situation by blaming some sort of Jewish conspiracy - the Nazis had plenty of empirical evidence that blaming Jews for problems was working.

    And it is not like they needed the Olympics to invade Poland (or, for that matter, Russia, which is what really destroyed them.)

    Posted by: Bill | Aug 13, 2013 1:18:38 AM

  9. Check out what Russian LGBT people are saying about boycotting the Olympics. The Russian LGBT Network issued a lengthy statement that ended with the quote: " DO NOT BOYCOTT THE OLYMPICS - BOYCOTT HOMOPHIBIA.STAND IN SOLIDARITY WITH PEOPLE IN RUSSIA AND BRING LGBT PRIDE AND VALUES OF HUMAN RIGHTS AND FREEDOMS TO THE GAMES IN SOCHI". Yet the armchair militants in the comfort of their homes thousands of miles away, think they know better.

    Posted by: andrew | Aug 13, 2013 2:10:36 AM

  10. The Russians will understand a huge boycott and economic hit. They will understand large amounts of continuous negative publicity.

    It's time for LGBTs [I hate this term, but will use it here] who're are in anyway connected to the event and for LGBT friendly people to stand up. I think athletes who attend the event making some sort of public demonstration of their dislike/contempt for Russia's anti-gay laws should also be strongly encouraged.Maybe some iconic symbol, some iconic photo, will come out of it all.

    The IOC should never have approved Russia for the event. But the IOC is a corrupt organization, and I'm sure money was involved.

    Posted by: ratbastard | Aug 13, 2013 8:25:27 AM

  11. @Bill. The problem with your argument is that being a vegan is a choice, sexual orientation is not.

    Posted by: stpetegreg | Aug 13, 2013 4:57:23 PM

  12. @stpetegreg: that is not a problem with the argument, which was about other groups jumping in with their own demands, some legitimate and some more than a bit bizarre. It's not just the vegans (the example I gave) as there are a huge number of groups pushing various things, nor does it matter if something is a choice or not.

    For any example, you can come up with a rationale about why gay rights is different, more important, or what have you. The problem is that there are a very large number of special interests that would hop in and you'd have come up with arguments that work for all of the ones you think are frivolous.

    Posted by: Bill | Aug 13, 2013 7:27:17 PM

  13. The only recourse I see is the entire Olympic event be taken out of Russia. Otherwise, the IOC is as bad as Russia. It isn't "us" trying to force our views on Russia. It is "us" saying that no one has the right to discriminate - isn't that what the Olympics are about?

    Posted by: Michael | Aug 14, 2013 9:58:50 AM

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