The fear and outrage is rooted in the recent crackdown on LGBT Russians, including passage of a law that criminalizes even the most modest gestures of support for the dignity and humanity of LGBT people. The IOC’s statement reports that it “has received assurances from the highest level of government in Russia that the legislation will not affect those attending or taking part in the Games.”
“Mere verbal assurances from the Russian government that foreigners will be exempt from their repressive laws are not enough,” said Human Rights Campaign (HRC) President Chad Griffin. “The IOC must obtain ironclad written assurance from President Putin. But more importantly, they should be advocating for the safety of all LGBT people in Russia, not simply those visiting for the Olympics. Rescinding this heinous law must be our collective goal.”
In June, a law banning “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations” was passed by Russia’s Federal Assembly and signed into law by President Vladimir Putin. Under the guise of protecting children from “homosexual propaganda,” the law imposes fines or jail time to citizens who disseminate information that may cause a “distorted understanding” that LGBT and heterosexual relationships are “socially equivalent.” The fines are significantly higher if such information is distributed through the media or Internet.
Foreigners, such as those visiting Russia for the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games, will not only be fined but also face arrest and up to 15 days in jail, followed by eventual deportation, according to the new law.
Earlier this week Griffin sent a letter to the leadership of NBCUniversal, calling on the company to use its exclusive coverage of the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games to expose this heinous law. The letter comes just days before the network is set to unveil its plans for the Winter Games at the annual Television Critics Association meeting on Saturday.