Russia confirmed that it will be enforcing its new anti-gay laws during the Sochi Winter Olympics, brushing off claims from the International Olympic Committee that athletes and guests would be protected from the legislation.
The legislation bans undefined “propaganda” that supports non-traditional relationships, expressed either in person on or the web. The first foreigners to be fined under the law, which President Vladimir Putin signed in July, were four Dutch filmmakers shooting a documentary about the state of gay rights in one Russian town.
At a Friday press conference, President Obama said he was more offended by the law than anybody.
“I know that one question that’s been raised is how do we approach the Olympics. I want to just make very clear right now I do not think it’s appropriate to boycott the Olympics. We’ve got a bunch of Americans out there who are training hard, who are doing everything they can to succeed. Nobody is more offended than me by some of the anti-gay and lesbian legislation that you’ve been seeing in Russia. But as I said just this week, I’ve spoken out against that not just with respect to Russia but a number of other countries where we continue to do work with them, but we have a strong disagreement on this issue,” Obama said.
“And one of the things I’m really looking forward to is maybe some gay and lesbian athletes bringing home the gold or silver or bronze, which I think would go a long way in rejecting the kind of attitudes that we’re seeing there. And if Russia doesn’t have gay or lesbian athletes, then it probably makes their team weaker,” he added.
Russia’s Interior Ministry said in a statement today that there will be no exceptions to the law for visiting Olympians.
“The law enforcement agencies can have no qualms with people who harbor a nontraditional sexual orientation and do not commit such acts, do not conduct any kind of provocation and take part in the Olympics peacefully,” said the statement, according to RIA Novosti.
“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 ministry added.
Last week, a group of 87 House Democrats and one Republican — former Foreign Affairs Committee chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) — implored Secretary of State John Kerry to take measures to protect gay athletes and fans at the Olympics.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), ranking member of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice, said the U.S. “must do everything we can to protect those Americans who are traveling to Russia for the Olympic and Paralympic Games this winter” in the wake of recent laws passed in Russia.
“Russia’s anti-LGBT laws defy basic human rights that should be guaranteed to everyone at all times and in all places,” said Nadler. “These laws are completely contrary to the uniting spirit of the Olympics, which brings diverse nations together in a spirit of peaceful and friendly competition.”