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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.
In June, when Russia’s government passed an anti-gay “propaganda” bill that was quickly signed into law by President Vladimir Putin, LGBT Americans reacted with fury.
Many jumped to action by organizing petitions to boycott or move the Olympics. 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.
“[T]here is something we can do right here, right now, in Seattle and other US cities to show our solidarity with Russian queers and their allies and to help to draw international attention to the persecution of gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, trans people, and straight allies in Putin’s increasingly fascistic Russia: DUMP RUSSIAN VODKA,” Savage wrote in his July 24 column.
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.).
Several Atlanta gay bars are dumping Stolichnaya as a way to protest the inhumane treatment of LGBT people in Russia, where this brand of vodka originated.
On June 15, Robby Kelley, co-owner of the Atlanta Eagle, announced his bar would stop serving the popular vodka and any other Russian booze.
"I know Stoli is not made in Russia but profits made from it goes there. The Atlanta Eagle will no longer carry these vodkas. When we are out, we are out. I'm a small bar but [feel] like [it's] my job [not] to support vodka or [products] from a country that just removed the rights of the lgbt community for the next 100 years," he said.