You can cheer on your favorite athlete at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, but beware of blatantly supporting any “nontraditional” sexuality.
This past July, Russian President Vladimir V. Putin signed a law banning “homosexual propaganda.” Open advocates of “nontraditional” sexuality can expect a $155 fine or arrest, and foreigners will likely face deportation.
Naturally, visiting athletes are not exempt from these discriminatory measures. In a show of grand generosity (cough), Russia’s minister of sports Vitaly L. Mutko told states news agency, R-Sport, that gay athletes are still welcome to attend the Games.
Despite this impressive show of tolerance (snort), Putin’s law only compounds the already overwhelming promotion of antigay sentiment in Russia. The legislation is vague enough to allow any manner of condemnation of homosexuals. It wasn’t until 1993 that homosexuality was decriminalized; six years later, it was removed from a list of psychiatric disorders. Leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill I, went so far as to claim the authorization of same-sex marriage is a “very dangerous symptom of the apocalypse.”
The discriminatory stance of such authority figures is made all the more painful considering the brutal murders and attacks on gay rights supporters in Russia. On Aug. 2, activist Kirill Kalugin’s one-man protest was interrupted by paratroopers, who harassed him before he was detained by the police. On Nov. 3, two shooters sprayed bullets from traumatic pistols at the Laskai Center, a safe meeting place for LGBT groups.
In light of such merciless oppression, many advocates outside Russia are feverishly demanding a boycott of the Olympics. It seems to me an environment unfit to host the global community, representative of so many world views and sexual orientations. Attending the Games with little consideration for Russia’s clearly homophobic government would signal passive acceptance of injustice.
Mutko’s noble allowance of gay athlete participation is rather meaningless – the fact remains that banning supportive posters is contemptible. This measure merely creates a flimsy façade of acceptance. If Russia seeks to genuinely welcome the whole world to the Games, its legislation must allow for the myriad of views that accompany it. This means allowing for the free expression of LGBT allies.
The bottom line is that sexuality has no place in sports where only an athlete’s performance is deserving of judgment. It would befit the Russian legislation to quickly reconsider its unforgiving ban, or we must reconsider the Olympics location.
Meanwhile, if the loving union of the same sex signals the end of the world, I warmly welcome it.
Photo via the New York Times