IOC Officials Concerned Over Russia’s Anti-Gay Laws

by Jason St. Amand

National News Editor

Thursday June 13, 2013

The recent unanimous passage of a bill stigmatizing the gay community by the lower house of Russia's parliament this week and subsequent anti-gay violence that ensued, has officials of the International Olympic Committee concerned about the upcoming Winter Olympics scheduled to take place next year in Sochi, Russia. Gay Star News reports.

The International Olympic Committee said it will embrace openly gay athletes during the Winter Olympics, despite Russian support for the highly controversial bill.

This week, the State Duma approved a measure, banning "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations," but the measure still needs to be passed by the appointed upper house and signed into law by President Vladimir Putin. As the Associated Press notes, the bill is "part of an effort to promote traditional Russian values as opposed to Western liberalism, which the Kremlin and the Russian Orthodox Church see as corrupting Russian youth and contributing to the protests against Putin's rule."

A spokesman for the IOC told Gay Star News that they were "concerned" about the measure becoming law.

"The IOC would like to reiterate our long commitment to non-discrimination against those taking part in the Olympic Games," the spokesman told the website. "The IOC is an open organization and athletes of all orientations will be welcome at the Games."

Individuals who are found "promoting homosexuality" can be fined up to $166 and possibly face jail time.

Concerns over the welfare of LGBT olympians go back to 2012, when plans to build a Pride House in Sochi modeled after one built for the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver were thwarted by the Russian ministry of justice.

"The aims of the organization contradict the basics of public morality and the policy of the state in the area of family motherhood and childhood protection," said Judge Svetlana Mordovina in her ruling. "The activities of the [Pride House] movement leads to propaganda of non-traditional sexual orientation which can undermine the security of the Russian society and the state, and provoke social-religious hatred, which is the feature of the extremist character of the activity. Moreover it can undermine the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation due to the decrease of Russia's population."

Judge Mordovina further stated that "such aims as creating an understanding of the necessity to fight against homophobia and the creation of positive attitudes towards LGBT sportsmen contradicts with the basics of public morality because they are directed towards the increase of the number of citizens of sexual minorities which breaches the understanding of good and evil, good and bad, vice and virtue."

Over the past year, several regions in Russia, most notably St. Petersburg, have passed measures banning "homosexual propaganda." As a result of such laws, a number of gay rights activists have been arrested in protests which sparked concern from the international community. This past spring, Madonna faced a ban from entering the country after speaking out in defense of gay rights and the feminist punk group Pussy Riot.

"I will come to St. Petersburg to speak up for the gay community and to give strength and inspiration to anyone who is or feels oppressed," the singer told Bloomberg Businessweek in an email. "I don't run away from adversity. I will speak during my show about this ridiculous atrocity."