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, 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. More analysis here.

 

Read the full APC letter below:

Lawrence F. Probst, III
Chairman, United States Olympic Committee
27 South Tejon
Colorado Springs, CO 80903

 

Chairman Probst,

I write to you today on behalf the Atlanta Pride Committee to express our significant concern about the safety of the lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender (LGBT) and allied members of our nation’s Olympic delegation to the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.

As you are no doubt aware, Russia has recently passed a number of anti-LGBT laws. These laws not only impact the human rights of the LGBT population of Russia but they also endanger the human rights, the safety and potentially the lives of LGBT members of the US Olympic delegation as well as any LGBT or allied US citizens travelling to Sochi to enjoy the games. Additionally, these laws run contrary to US Foreign policy, international human rights doctrine as outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Yogyakarta Principles, as well as the 6th Fundamental Principle of Olympism as laid out in The Olympic Charter.

We are slightly encouraged to see the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) statement defending the human rights of LGBTI people and its assurance that it will work to ensure the safety of LGBTI athletes, spectators, media, and officials attending the Sochi Winter Games. However, we are dismayed at the lack of specificity from the IOC on exactly about how they intend to ensure the safety of LGBTI people affiliated with the games while in Russia.

We ask that in your role as Chair of the USOC you encourage the IOC to take swift and appropriate action to ensure the safety of all athletes and visitors to these games and offer the following initiatives as examples of how the IOC could make their pledge to protect LGBT people actionable.

1. The IOC should work with LGBT-supportive countries to create a safe space for athletes by establishing a Rainbow House in Sochi either by renting a venue or by opening a temporary consulate.

2. The IOC could facilitate the ability of participating LGBT athletes and allies to wear a rainbow pin or carry a rainbow flag during the march of athletes at the opening and closing ceremonies.

3. The IOC chair could condemn the anti-gay laws in Russia as contrary to the Fundamental Principles of Olympism during his remarks at the Opening Ceremonies.

We applaud the bravery of openly gay New Zealand speed skater Blake Skjellerup for refusing to hide who he is in Russia and in the rest of the world. We hope that his example gives other athletes the courage to declare themselves LGBTI or supporters.

Visibility and a refusal to submit to intimidation is the path to full legal and social equality. In that vein, the Atlanta Pride Committee offers to supply the US Olympic Delegation with rainbow flags to carry during the Parade of Nations at the Opening Ceremonies. Should the USOC be interested in taking advantage of our offer, please contact me at glen@atlantapride.org or (404) 307-9631.

We wish everyone a safe, happy and successful 2014 Winter Olympic Games. Go USA!

Glen Paul Freedman
Chair, Board of Directors
Atlanta Pride Committee, Inc.

cc:

Congressman John Lewis
John Kerry, US Secretary of State
Daniel Baer, Deputy Assistant Secretary Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor – US Department of State
Scott Blackman, CEO United States Olympic Committee
Gautman Raghavan, White House Associate Director of Public Engagement

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