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Putin says LGBT people welcome at Sochi Winter Olympic games

Russian President Vladimir Putin told the head of the International Olympic Committee Monday that gay people will be welcome at the 2014 Winter games in Sochi despite the country's anti-gay law passed earlier this year that has been the subject of calls for boycotts and severe criticism.

"We are doing everything, both the organizers and our athletes and fans, so that participants and guests feel comfortable in Sochi, regardless of nationality, race or sexual orientation" Putin told Thomas Bach, the head of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), according to a report by Reuters.

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Atlanta Pride Committee sounds off over Olympics concern

The Atlanta Pride Committee expressed concern today via a letter over the safety of gay and lesbian athletes and others in the American delegation ahead of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

In the letter, the Atlanta Pride's Board Chair Glenn Paul Freedman encourages Lawrence Probst, chairman of the U.S. Olympic Committee, to use his position to keep the pressure on the International Olympic Committee ahead of the games to ensure the safety of LGBT athletes, tourists and others invovled with the games.

Freedman also offered to supply the American delegation rainbow flags to carry during the opening ceremony's Parade of Nations. See Freedman's letter, which was also sent to Congressman John Lewis (D-Ga.), Secretary of State John Kerry and others, below.

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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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Mixed signals from gay rights groups on Russian Olympics boycott

To boycott, or not to boycott, that is the question.

All Out, a global gay rights group launched in 2010, and Athlete Ally, a U.S.-based organization that promotes LGBT inclusion in sports, released a joint statement today, calling on a political solution rather than a boycott of the upcoming Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, over the country's anti-gay agenda.

A flurry of online petitions calling for a complete boycott of the games, its corporate sponsors and even NBC have cropped up recently. Some gay bars have even started their own boycott of Russian vodka.

But All Out Executive Director Andre Banks said today that a boycott of the games to protest Russia's anti-gay laws was not the most prudent way to send a message to Russian politicians.

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Russia draws fire over anti-gay laws ahead of Winter Olympics

Vladimir Putin

Gay rights activists across the globe have called on the international community to boycott the upcoming 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, over the country's continued crackdown on gay rights activists and LGBTQ tourists.

Already, online petition creators have amassed thousands of digital signatures calling for a complete boycott of the upcoming games.

One such petition, currently on Change.org, has amassed some 20,000 signatures.

RUSA LGBT, an LGBTQ advocacy organization made up of Russian speakers, is leading the call for a boycott of the games. Its message is pretty simple: Do not support Sochi.

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[Video] LGBT History Month Icon for Oct. 30: Tom Waddell

LGBT History Month

October is LGBT History Month. The month of observance was first organized in 1994 by high school teacher Rodney Wilson to coincide with National Coming Out Day (Oct. 11) and was meant to highlight the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights movement.

In 2006, the Equality Forum began promoting the annual commemoration by featuring a different LGBT icon each day.

“This is the 7th anniversary of LGBT History Month. There are a total of 217 Icons that inspire pride in our heroes and our impressive national and international accomplishments,” said Malcolm Lazin, Equality Forum executive director, in a statement.

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Outspoken: Out Olympics athletes

Megan Rapinoe

“I guess [coming out publicly] seems like a weight off my shoulders. I’ve been playing a lot better than I’ve ever played before. I think I’m just enjoying myself and I’m happy.”

Megan Rapinoe, a midfielder for the US women’s soccer team, who scored three goals on the way to the team’s gold medal. Rapinoe came out in the press before the start of the London Olympics. (Associated Press, Aug. 8)

“It’s an absurdly low number. Sports is still the final closet in society.”

— Jim Buzinski, founder of OutSports.com, on the low number of openly gay elite athletes. (Associated Press, Aug. 9)