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Russia's ban on so-called "LGBT propaganda"

  • June 2013 - Russia passes a law banning the “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relationships” to minors.  The law has a vague definition of "propaganda," which could include speaking favorably about LGBT people publically, displaying a rainbow flag, holding hands with a same-sex partner, or even the simple act of coming out as LGBT.
  • July 2013 - Russia passes a law that prohibits the adoption of Russian children by foreigners who live in countries that legally recognize marriage equality, including the United States
  • Numerous other laws have been passed that impact LGBT Russians that restrict basic freedoms of assembly, speech, and the rights of groups to organize freely if they receive funding from outside of Russia.
  • October 2013 - A law is proposed that would remove children from parents who are LGBT. The bill was temporarily withdrawn, but there is a strong likelihood it will be reintroduced after the 2014 Winter Olympics.
  • Russian leaders supporting the law, including the bill's author Alexei Zhuravlyov, have cited a University of Texas study conducted in 2012 as evidence to legitimize the bill, despite the fact that the study has been widely discredited. An independent auditor has slammed the paper, saying it misled many to conclude that it found children of gay and lesbian parents fare worse than children of straight parents. Regnerus's paper included very few children of gay and lesbian parents who self-identified that way, and were in committed relationships, raising those children together. In the Chronicle of Higher Education's Percolator blog, Darren E. Sherkat, a professor of sociology at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale stated that the study should have never been published.
  • The anti-propaganda law has already convicted the publisher of a newspaper who reported on a teacher fired for being gay, and for quoting the teacher as saying, "My very existence is proof being gay is normal." It has also charged the creator of an LGBT youth support web site.
  • In a recent interview, Russian President Vladimir Putin equated LGBT people to pedophiles, saying that LGBT athletes and fans will be welcome in Russia as long as they "leave children alone."
  • Along with Putin, two Olympic Village 'mayors,' Svetlana Zhurova and Yelena Isinbayeva, also defended Russia's anti-LGBT laws. Svetlana Zhurova is a gold-winning figure skater and a law maker in the Russian parliament who voted for the "Propaganda of Nontraditional Sexual Relations" bill last June. In an interview for Dozhd, that she “voted [in favor of the bill] to stop people promoting it [the LGBT community] to minors.” Yelena Isinbayeva, a Russian pole vault champion, said it is disappointing for athletes from other countries to voice their opinion about the anti-LGBT laws.

Russian anti-LGBT culture

  • Many LGBT Russians have reported a dramatic change for the worse in recent years. While it has never been easy to live openly as LGBT in Russia, many say they are now afraid for their lives. A large number of LGBT Russians have said they plan to leave the country. Some, however, cannot afford to leave or do not want to leave behind their families and friends.
  • About three-quarters (74%) of Russians said being gay or lesbian should not be accepted by society, while just 16% said it should be accepted, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey.
  • Gangs have targeted and kidnapped LGBT people, tortured them, and posted videos of the torture. The most common gang named itself "Occupy Pedophilia."
  • In May of 2013, three men stabbed and trampled a gay man in Russia. After they killed him, they placed the victim in his car and set it on fire.
  • A gay man was tortured to death in Volgograd, Russia. He was sexually assaulted with beer bottles and his skull was smashed with a stone by the attackers.
  • In August of 2013, a group of individuals were attacked at a Moscow Bar. After the attack, one of the perpetrators texted the victims telling them not to come back because “they looked gay”
  • An LGBT activist in Russia was publically assaulted by Russian paratroopers. Krill Kalugin was attacked while holding a sign “This is propagating tolerance” in St. Petersburg, Russia.
  • In August of 2013, Russian television news anchor Anton Krasovsky came out as gay, live on Russia's KrontrTV. Within hours, he was fired from his job at the state-run cable network.
  • In November of 2013, two men wearing ski masks, carrying air guns and baseball bats, attacked a private meeting of LaSky, a Russian HIV/AIDS association in St. Petersburg. The police were called, but left right away stating they saw no evidence of a crime.

2014 Winter Olympics

  • The Olympic Charter plainly states that "Any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement."
  • The International Olympic Committee (IOC) found that Russia's anti-LGBT laws do not violate the Olympic charter's anti-discrimination clause, saying the Committee is "fully satisfied" on the matter.
  • The International Olympic Committee has said that political demonstrations could result in an athlete's disqualification from the Games. It is not clear if speaking positively about LGBT people is considered as a political demonstration.
  • The International Olympic Committee and the U.S. Olympic Committee have made it clear to competing athletes that Rule 50 of the IOC's codes prohibits any behavior such as displaying LGBT-supportive messages on clothing or while competing. Athletes are allowed to answer questions about their positions if asked by media and may post their views on social media, but not in the Olympic Village.
  • Sochi has established a "protest zone," located far from most Olympic venues as a place for people to express their views, but which requires permission from the Federal Security Service (the former KGB).
  • There are only five openly LGBT athletes competing in the Sochi games. All five are women, and none are from the United States. For comparison, the 2012 London Olympic Games had about 25 out athletes and coaches.
  • Campaign efforts are underway to increase the visibility of LGBT people during the Olympics.
  • The Principle 6 Campaign, organized by LGBT advocacy groups Athlete Ally and All Out, shows support for the Olympic Charter tenant that states "discrimination" is "incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement."
  • Pride House International is a coalition of LGBT sports and human rights groups that creates Pride Houses at the Olympics. Its application for a Pride House in Sochi was denied by Russian officials. They have launched two campaigns—the Same-Sex Hand Holding Initiative, and  establishing "Safe House" Olympic watching events around the world.
  • The Human Rights Campaign will continue its Love Conquers Hate campaign during the Olympics through apparel and social media campaigns.
  • The Uprising of Love Campaign will continue its work to boost international visibility of Russia's anti-LGBT laws by leveraging celebrity participation -- including Melissa Etheridge, Dustin Lance Black, George Takei, and other Hollywood notables – while also directing supporters to RussiaFreedomFund.org, a vehicle through which people can make financial contributions to support the LGBT community in Russia.

International reactions

  • Russia's anti-LGBT 'propaganda' law is not the only, or even the worst anti-LGBT law in the world. Uganda's parliament recently passed a law that sentences LGBT people to life in prison. India recently re-criminalized sex between people of the same-sex. Nigeria recently enacted a law that criminalizes marriage for same-sex couples, LGBT organizations, and anyone working for or promoting LGBT equality.
  • In total, 83 countries have laws against being LGBT.
  • World leaders are boycotting the Games over Russian human rights violations: German President Joachim Gauck, French President Francois Hollande, and European Union Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding said they will not attend the Olympic Games as a result of Russia's human rights violations.
  • President Obama will not be attending the Games this year. The White House Olympic delegation does not include any top administration officials, but does include three openly gay or lesbian athletes: Billie Jean King, Caitlin Cahow, and Brian Boitano.
  • Sweden's Sports Minister, Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth will not attend the Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony due to Russia's human rights violations. Liljeroth will, however, attend the Games to support Swedish athletes.
  • Finland's Sports Minister Paavo Arhinmaki will skip the Olympic's Opening Ceremony in Sochi, saying that politicians should not go to Russia to "support human rights violations, restrictions to freedom of speech and the oppression of sexual minorities"
  •  The U.S. State Department has issued a travel warning to LGBT people traveling to Sochi. "The U.S. government understands that this law applies to both Russian citizens and foreigners in Russia. Russian citizens found guilty of violating the law could face a fine of up to 100,000 rubles ($3,100). Foreign citizens face similar fines, up to 14 days in jail, and deportation. The law makes it a crime to promote LGBT equality in public, but lacks concrete legal definitions for key terms. Russian authorities have indicated a broad interpretation of what constitutes "LGBT propaganda," and provided vague guidance as to which actions will be interpreted by authorities as 'LGBT propaganda.'"

Others' reactions

  • 40 LGBT and human rights organizations have issued a letter calling for Olympic sponsors to speak out against the anti-propaganda law and in support of LGBT Russians.
  • AT&T has issued a statement that condemned the anti-propaganda law, "AT&T has a long and proud history of support for the LGBT community in the United States and everywhere around the world where we do business. We support LGBT equality globally and we condemn violence, discrimination and harassment targeted against LGBT individuals everywhere. Russia's law is harmful to LGBT individuals and families, and it's harmful to a diverse society."
  • Pop icon Madonna expressed her opinions about Russia's anti-LGBT laws during a 2012 concert in St. Petersburg, during which she encouraged her audience to "show your love and appreciation to the gay community." Madonna also appeared in an outfit with "No Fear" scrawled on her back. Most of her audience members also wore pink bracelets distributed at the concert to show support for the LGBT community.
  • After visiting Russia last December, Elton John published a letter on his website asking Russia to drop the propaganda law and treat LGBT Russians with respect. While performing in Moscow and Kazan, Elton John mentioned the warm welcome he received. But in order to understand how the laws truly impact LGBT Russians, Elton John met up with a local LGBT group. They discussed many forms of harassment they experienced since the passing of the propaganda law. In his letter, he also expresses the desire to introduce Vladimir Putin to those individuals who deserve the same respect he experienced while in Russia.
  • Pop Superstar Lady Gaga stated that she believes athletes should boycott the Sochi Winter Olympics. She expresses how sad she is to see the world send so much money to a country which is so discriminatory of LGBT individuals. In the interview, she also tells about the pain she felt seeing LGBT kids in Russia.
  • Due to the Russian Propaganda laws, Selena Gomez had to cancel two shows in Russia because she did not receive an entry visa. After both Madonna and Lady Gaga showed support for the LGBT community during their concerts, the government was afraid Gomez would use her platform to support LGBT rights. Since Gomez was not allowed in the country, Justin Timberlake might also have to cancel two of his performances on Russia grounds in May of 2014.
  • Cher was asked to be an Ambassador at the Olympics and perform; she had declined the offer due to the discrimination in Russia. 
  • Seth Wescott, who won gold medals in snowboard cross in the 2006 and 2010 Olympics, spoke up against the propaganda laws in Russia. He criticizes the International Olympic Committee for choosing Sochi as a host country of the upcoming Winter Games. He states that discrimination against LGBT people is a crime in itself.
  • Blake Skjellerup, a speed skater also expressed his voice as an openly gay athlete. He believes that being an openly gay athlete in Sochi will make more of a statement rather than boycotting the games.
  • After winning a silver medal in Moscow at the World Track and Field Championships, runner Nick Symmonds dedicated his victory to LGBT friends in his country.  

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