17 countries and 13 U.S. States currently have marriage equality. This has been a red-letter year for LGBT rights. Why just this past June, 2013, the US Supreme Court struck down part of the Defense of Marriage Act, the 1996 law that prohibited the federal government from recognizing same-sex couples married in states where it was legal. The court also stated that they could not rule on a second case regarding California’s Proposition 8 and thereby keeping a lower court ruling that invalidated it. France and the UK both passed marriage equality laws. This is all great and wonderful news for LGBT citizens of the world.
However, while we take several steps forward, we also take some steps back. Russia recently passed two very restrictive anti-gay laws. The first is a law prohibiting the adoption of Russian children by same-sex couples and by unmarried individuals who reside in a country that allows same-sex marriage. But wait, there’s more… The second is a highly restrictive and homophobic law. Now, the law of the land in Mother Russia is this:
“Russia’s parliament has unanimously passed a federal law banning gay “propaganda” amid a Kremlin push to enshrine deeply conservative values that critics say has already led to a sharp increase in anti-gay violence.
The law passed 436-0 on Tuesday, with just one deputy abstaining from voting on the bill, which bans the spreading of “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations” among minors. The law in effect makes it illegal to equate straight and gay relationships, as well as the distribution of material on gay rights. It introduces fines for individuals and media groups found guilty of breaking the law, as well as special fines for foreigners.
Minutes after passing the anti-gay legislation, the Duma also approved a new law allowing jail sentences of up to three years for “offending religious feelings”, an initiative launched in the wake of the trial against the anti-Kremlin punk band Pussy Riot. The two laws were widely criticised by Russia’s marginalised liberal and human rights communities and come amid a wider crackdown against independent civil activity in the country.”
This smells of the Nuremberg Laws that Germany passed in 1935. You know those laws that banned Jewish people from almost everything in Germany. They were passed in the lead up to the Olympics they were hosting in 1936. While not completely similar, they are still a set of laws directly targeting a specific minority group and as of now, no government or the International Olympic Committee has not denounced these terrible laws.
Why is it ok to keep silent because this particular group happens to be gay? Where is the outrage from our elected officials or from the Human Rights Campaign? The supposed leading LGBT Organization in the U.S.A. The only peep from the IOC has been that the Russian government won’t enforce the anti-gay propaganda law during the Olympics. However, Vitaly Mutko, the Russian Sports Minister, said in an interview with R-Sports “No one is forbidding an athlete with non-traditional sexual orientation from coming to Sochi, but if he goes onto the street and starts propagandizing it, then of course he will be held accountable.”
So who knows what will happen at the Olympics. So far no one seems to be doing anything meaningful to denounce this. If you follow gay news you will know that there has been an ersatz boycott against Russian vodkas. What you may or may not know is that these vodkas (mostly Stoli) are made outside of Russia because the owner, SPI and Yuri Shefler, are in exile due to disagreements with policy in Russia. In fact, Stoli is a big supporter of LGBT causes in the USA. I’m disappointed in Dan Savage for calling for this boycott and not doing basic research first. As a role model of LGBT people and our allies and the force behind the “It Gets Better” campaign, he should use his position to call for effective boycott and put pressure where it will make the most impact.
This leads to the next point. What’s to be done? Do we get countries to boycott the Olympics, like the last time Russia (née USSR) hosted in 1980? Or do we make this the gayest Olympics ever and stick it to the man or comrade. I, personally, lean towards making it pretty gay. These athletes train their whole lives for this and they should be given a chance to perform to the best of their abilities. People of the world, we should not sit idle while an injustice is happening and we all glorify the first Olympics of a supposedly democratic Russia. Push your representatives to make sure our LGBT and Ally athletes are protected. Push them some more to put pressure on the IOC and the US Olympic Committee to denounce these laws for what they are… homophobic garbage.