World

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Anti-gay laws spark international debate over Olympics

Vladimir Putin

Despite international media scrutiny and criticism from foreign heads of state and hundreds of thousands of activists around the world, Russian officials won’t back down from the country’s controversial law banning gay “propaganda” — prompting calls for boycotts of everything from the 2014 Winter Olympics to vodkas associated with Russia.

Passed unanimously by Parliament and signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin on June 30, the law is aimed at protecting minors from “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” and is so vague critics fear it could criminalize simply being openly gay or expressing any support for LGBT equality.

The propaganda law, part of a rising tide of homophobia in Russia (see sidebar, “Russia’s attack on LGBT rights”), includes a clause specifically related to foreigners, who could face fines, 15 days of detainment and deportation. The clause raises questions about the impact on thousands of foreign athletes, staffers, media and fans expected to attend the upcoming Olympics, set for Feb. 7-23 in Sochi, Russia.

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U.S. Rep. John Lewis joins concern over Russia’s anti-gay laws, Olympics

john lewis

Outspoken LGBT rights ally John Lewis is the only member of Congress from Georgia to sign a letter calling on Secretary of State John Kerry to ensure the safety of LGBT Americans attending the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

"We are writing to you regarding the troubling implications of a recently-enacted Russian law criminalizing actions or statements deemed to be in support of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community," states the letter, led by U.S. Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) and signed by 83 members of Congress including Lewis (D-Ga.).

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French lawmakers approve same-sex marriage

France became the ninth European nation to approve a same-sex marriage law after its National Assembly voted today to allow gay and lesbian couples to marry, according to multiple media outlets.

The measure, which passed 331 to 225, came after several days of intense protests throughout the French capitol. Thousands rallied over the weekend and into Monday for and against the proposed legislation.

French President Francois Hollande, the head of the country's left-leaning socialist party, campaigned on marriage equality during France's 2012 elections. Hollande is expected to sign the measure into law.

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StandUp Foundation awards nearly $60,000 in grants to anti-bullying efforts

Ben Cohen, the former English rugby star and always gay icon who has taken his fame and rugged good looks to raise money for anti-bullying efforts through his StandUp Foundation, announced today his organization donated nearly $60,000 in since it was founded in Atlanta 2011.

“Our mission is simple but will take time to fulfill. We are off to a strong start,” said Cohen in a prepared statement. “We exist to raise awareness of the long-term damaging effects of bullying, and to fund those doing real-world work to stop it.”

Cohen has also said he wants to specifically work to stop LGBT bullying as well as end homophobia in sports. He has become a popular attendee of many Atlanta LGBT events, enjoys working out with the Atlanta Bucks gay rugby squad, and was an honorary grand marshal for last year's Atlanta Pride.

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Gay American living in Uganda opens up about its gay community and the ‘Kill the Gays Bill’

Erik Friedly, 47,  is an American citizen living in Kampala, Uganda, working in health communications. He has lived there for nearly a year and will live there for at least one more year if not longer. In an email interview with the GA Voice, Friedly discusses the LGBT community in Uganda and the impact the notorious "Kill the Gays Bill" has on the gay people living there. The bill is expected to be passed by the Parliament perhaps as soon as this week.

Are you openly gay to your colleagues? Do you have to be careful about who knows you are gay?

I am open to most of my American colleagues in the same way that I am at home in the U.S.; it just becomes apparent in getting to know each other and becoming friends. So, yes, most of them know, I think. I am not, however, open with my Ugandan colleagues in the same way. Some may suspect, of course, but I am not as open with them because of attitudes here which most — not all — people hold. But, for example, I am certain that my household staff must at least suspect what my orientation is but we obviously never discuss it.