Each day that passes new horror stories come out of Russia about imprisonments, hate crimes, unimaginable police brutality and official legislation that enshrines anti-LGBT sentiment into national law. It is quickly becoming one of the worst nations in the world for openly LGBT people to live or even visit.
Some groups are calling for an unlikely boycott of the Sochi Winter Olympics early next year. While a boycott is very unlikely by any nation what is possible is an united voice by Olympic athletes. The situation is bad and it is imperative that those who have voice share it with those who face jail, beatings and even death in the streets of Moscow.
Anti-gay sentiment is strong in Russia; violent acts — including murder — and unveiled threats against LGBT individuals create a hostile environment for this community in general. Just this month, a bill was unanimously passed banning gay propaganda to children. Although written to protect children, the law will have a wide interpretation. Among other finer points, authorities will be allowed to fine Russian citizens engaged in the spreading information or supporting non-traditional sexual orientations or unions, while detaining and deporting openly gay foreigner tourists or advocates.
From an Olympics perspective, Russia has already banned the setting up of a Pride House for LGBT athletes at the games, characterizing it as a threat to public morality. Not surprisingly, Human Rights Watch has been vocal about its grievances and LBGT groups have started to clamor for a boycott of the games, but the Olympic Committee, aside from expressing concern for ensuring the safety and well-being of LGBT athletes next year, has not responded forcefully. The escalation of the gay-rights issue is a largely internal matter, but the Sochi Olympics might just put it under a global magnifying glass in coming months.
Our international and national organizations should organize a letter to be signed by Olympians that would demand that President Putin stop the oppression of Russian LGBT citizens, proclaim that LGBT athletes will be safe to participate in the games and re-open LGBT Pride House.
If he refuses to open an LGBT Pride House then Athletes should show the LGBT flag at every possible moment doing the games and every athlete will be a walking billboard for Pride. Already out Olympian speed skater Blake Skjellerup (above) plans on wearing a pride pin at every event.
If between now and the games our community could mobilize thousands of signatures of athletes, past and present Olympic medal winners and sports icons it could have a very strong impact and threaten the public relations coup that Putin wants so badly with the games. It is time for those who have been blessed with victory to come to the aid of those who face the horror of oppression.