Jeff MerkleyPost submitted by David McCabe, HRC Digital Media intern

Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley is planning to introduce a resolution when the Senate returns from its August recess that would ask the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to take a stand against Russia’s anti-LGBT laws when the Winter Olympic Games arrive in the Black Sea town of Sochi next year. It would also call on them to receive guarantees that the law would not be enforced during the Games.

HRC lauded Merkley’s efforts in a statement yesterday. “With increasing attention being paid to Russia’s deplorable treatment of LGBT people, we applaud Senator Merkley and efforts in Congress to shine a spotlight on this issue and the cloud that hangs over the Sochi Olympic Games,” Director of Communications Michael Cole-Schwartz told BuzzFeed.

The Russian law, labeled as targeting “propaganda” makes it essentially illegal to speak openly about LGBT rights and there are concerns that same-sex couples could be targeted for showing affection towards one another in public. LGBT people in Russia are already subject to violence and harassment on a regular basis, and angry crowds that have assaulted activists who demonstrated against the new law.

Though the IOC claimed that Russian officials had assured them that the law would not be enforced against visitors to the Games, Russian officials have gone out of their way to make it clear that if LGBT individuals attend the Games and are open about their identities, they will be putting themselves in harms way.

“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,” Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said yesterday.

Chad Griffin, HRC’s president, called on executives at major Hollywood studios yesterday to consider Russia’s record of legislative discrimination against LGBT people when arranging for production, promotion and distribution of their films inside the country. HRC has also called on NBC to report on the Russian law as part of their coverage of the Games. 

HRC has been demanding that the IOC receive written assurances from Russian President Vladimir Putin that the law will not be enforced during the games — against athletes, officials or fan — and has also asked that the law be repealed.

Filed under: Allies, International

Don't miss a post

Sign up for RSS feeds

Have a news tip?

Share it with us

Community discussion

Read the guidelines