Putin says LGBT people welcome at Sochi Winter Olympic games

The promise from Putin comes after he and Russia have come under international media scrutiny and criticism from heads of activists around the world. Putin and 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 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, 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.

In several cities in the U.S., including Atlanta, a movement to protest Russia’s anti-gay movement spilled over into gay bars. Dan Savage, gay activist and columnist for the Seattle Stranger, urged his readers and others to boycott one of Russia’s leading exports — vodka, specifically Stolichnaya vodka, leading to the “Dump Stoli” campaign. Gay bars in Atlanta participating in the boycott include the Atlanta Eagle, Blake’s on the Park, Amsterdam Atlanta.

News of Russia’s anti-gay law also prompted the Atlanta Pride Committee to also speak out against the possible threat to gay and lesbian athletes attending the Olympic games in Sochi, Russia.