Russian Lawmaker: Foreign Visitors Not Exempt from Anti-LGBT Law

by Charles Joughin

Athletes, coaches, fans and journalists will still be subject to law criminalizing support for LGBT equality

WASHINGTON – The day after the International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced it had received assurances from “the highest level of government in Russia” that foreigners visiting the country for the 2014 Olympics would be exempt from a newly-passed law prohibiting “homosexual propaganda,” co-sponsor of the "non-traditional relationships" bill told reporters the law will remain enforced during the Sochi Games.

“I have not heard any comments from the government of the Russian Federation but I know it is acting in accordance with Russian law,” said Vitaly Milonov, a Member of the Legislative Assembly of St. Petersburg, according to Gay Star News.  “If a law has been approved by the federal legislature and signed by the president, then the government has no right to suspend it. It doesn’t have the authority.”

“The co-sponsor of this hateful law said it clearly enough—until there is formal action to repeal the law, it applies to everyone within Russian borders,” said Human Rights Campaign vice president for communications Fred Sainz. “It ought to be clear to the IOC that verbal assurance from nameless Russian officials will do nothing to protect LGBT Olympians, visitors, and personnel during the Sochi games.”

Earlier this week, HRC President Chad Griffin called on the IOC to do more regarding the situation in Russia: “Mere verbal assurances from the Russian government that foreigners will be exempt from their repressive laws are not enough. The IOC must obtain ironclad written assurance from President Putin.  But more importantly, they should be advocating for the safety of all LGBT people in Russia, not simply those visiting for the Olympics. Rescinding this heinous law must be our collective goal.”  

In June, a law banning "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations" was passed by Russia’s Federal Assembly and signed into law by President Vladimir Putin.  Under the guise of protecting children from "homosexual propaganda," the law imposes fines or jail time on citizens who disseminate information that may cause a "distorted understanding" that LGBT and heterosexual relationships are "socially equivalent." The fines are significantly higher if such information is distributed through the media or Internet.

Foreigners, such as those visiting Russia for the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games, will not only be fined but also face arrest and up to 15 days in jail, followed by eventual deportation, according to the new law.

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.

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