Russia Roundup: IOC makes assurances while LGBT visitors get more nervous.

Things are getting more and more complicated for anti-LGBT Russian leaders and the International Olympic Committee ahead of the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi.

It has been revealed that Russian officials will be monitoring all communications of visitors who attend the Sochi Winter Olympics. Undoubtedly, special monitoring attention will be given to LGBT advocates who may plan a visible action during the games. According to the New Civil Rights Movement, Russian President Vladimir Putin has taken over all telecommunications within the country, implementing technology that will track communications between visitors.

The tensions with Russia's anti-LGBT laws have grown to such a pitch that NYC and Company, the quasi-governmental agency that promotes tourism to the city from all over the world, will close its office in Moscow, in part because of Russia's anti-LGBT laws. According to Gay City News, one of the major factors was that the Russian laws would have put LGBT employees of the tourism office at risk.

Meanwhile, lobbying efforts to the International Olympic Committee to protect LGBT athletes and visitors to the Sochi Olympics continues. In a statement, Thomas Bach, the new IOC President, said:

“The Olympic Charter opposes any form of discrimination…on the grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise,” the IOC said in statement released Monday. “For the IOC this absolutely includes opposition to discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.”

However, that statement comes at the same time that Mr. Bach sent a letter to All Out, responding to demands to ensure the safety of LGBT people participating in the Olympic Games. In that letter, there is no mention of protections from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

“It is telling that the International Olympic Committee can’t even bring itself to say the word ‘gay’ or consider adding protections on the basis of sexual orientation to its charter,” said Omar Sharif Jr., GLAAD’s National Spokesperson. “They have allowed Russian anti-LGBT leaders to ban LGBT athletes from gathering in a Pride House or even expressing support for LGBT people in Russia, placing LGBT athletes in a precarious situation in which they must choose between being open and honest, and being able to compete. This is an abdication of responsibility on the part of the IOC, which has yet to be corrected.”

At the same time, LGBT advocates participating in the Side by Side LGBT Film Festival have gotten a reprieve. On 4th October, 2013 the City Court of St. Petersburg overturned two previous court decisions which had found the organization Side by Side LGBT Film Festival in violation of the ‘foreign agents’ law. The Side by Side offices were paid multiple visits by several officials from the Ministry of Justice and the police demanding proof of the organization’s legal status, all banking transactions, contracts, copies of films screened over the last five years, grant applications, and examples of all printed information brochures. The prosecutor decided that Side by Side was in violation of the law because of the publication of a brochure: "The Worldwide LGBT Movement: Local Practices to Global Politics" and participation in the social awareness campaign: “Let’s Stop the Homophobic Bill Together.” After fighting convictions and appeals, the fines associated with the charges have been dropped.

GLAAD is working with several Russian LGBT advocates to bring awareness to Russia's anti-LGBT actions. As time goes on, we will see more and more celebrities, organizations, and everyday people speaking out in a variety of ways to oppose anti-LGBT laws and in support of LGBT people in Russia and around the world. GLAAD will continue to lift up voices of LGBT Russians and keep pressure on the media to report on the state of LGBT life in Russia.