Obama: Russia's anti-gay law is like 76 others' anti-gay laws

Here is recent news about international reactions to Russia’s expanded repression of LGBT people — from President Barack Obama, from Change.org, and from Gilbert Baker, the creator of the rainbow flag.  These are in addition to the wide variety of responses described in the article “Why do activists reject Russian LGBT strategy for Olympics?

Obama: Russia’s anti-gay law is like 76 other countries’ anti-gay laws

Barack Obama
President Barack Obama

President Obama made clear this week that Russia’s crackdown on homosexuals and critics of the current regime is much like what has been going on for decades in 76-plus countries with anti-homosexuality laws. As a New Yorker blog reports, recounting Obama’s appearance on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” on Aug. 6:

Obama pointed out to Leno that “what’s happening in Russia is not unique. When I travelled to Africa, there were some countries that are doing a lot of good things for their people, who we’re working with and helping on development issues, but in some cases have persecuted gays and lesbians.” [Homosexual activity is illegal in 38 African countries, to be precise.]

He said that this “made for some uncomfortable press conferences,” but added that it was “one of the things that I think is very important for me to speak out on.”

Those remarks came in the context of a conversation about Russia’s broad and ill-defined ban on “homosexual propaganda”:

As Leno put it, “Suddenly, homosexuality is against the law.” He added, “I mean, why is not more of the world outraged at this?”

Obama answered by saying, in effect, that he was outraged: “I have no patience for countries that try to treat gays or lesbians or transgender persons in ways that intimidate them or are harmful to them.” …

Leno: Do you think it will affect the Olympics?

Obama: I think Putin and Russia have a big stake in making sure the Olympics work, and I think they understand that for most of the countries that participate in the Olympics, we wouldn’t tolerate gays and lesbians being treated differently. They’re athletes, they’re there to compete. And if Russia wants to uphold the Olympic spirit, then every judgment should be made on the track or in the swimming pool or on the balance beam, and people’s sexual orientation shouldn’t have anything to do with it.

(Applause.)

Leno: Good enough for me.

Petition to Olympic Committee: Condemn Russia’s anti-gay law

CNN reports:

A 320,000-signature petition protesting Russia’s stance on gay rights ahead of the Winter Olympics in Sochi early next year was presented to Olympic bosses in Switzerland on Wednesday [Aug. 7].

The petition, delivered to the International Olympic Committee headquarters in Lausanne by gay rights group All Out, calls on Russia to repeal its anti-gay propaganda law in advance of the Sochi Games.

It also urges the IOC to condemn the law and urged Russia to ensure the security of all visitors, athletes and Russian people before, during, and after the Games.

“Ironically, the global outcry is transforming Sochi into an amazing platform for Russians and athletes to defy the law and speak out on gay rights,” said All Out co-founder and executive director Andre Banks.

The petition did not propose moving the Winter Olympics out of Sochi, which other activists have suggested.

For more information, see the full CNN article: Gay rights campaigners petition IOC over Russia’s Sochi Olympics.”

Gay Rainbow Flag Creator says NO Rainbow Flags at Olympics in Sochi Russia

Actress Tilda Swinton unfurled a rainbow flag in Moscow. (Photo via Twitter)
Actress Tilda Swinton unfurled a rainbow flag in Moscow. (Photo via Twitter)

O-blog-dee reports that the creator of the rainbow flag is unhappy with proposals for athletes and spectators at the Sochi Olympics to wave those flags, apparently even if they are used as a protest against Russia’s anti-LGBT crackdown:

Gilbert Baker, the creator of the Rainbow Flag and a member of Queer Nation made the following statement … :  “Olympic flag waving gave a stamp of approval to Nazi atrocities in 1936. Please don’t use the Rainbow Flag to cover up Russian atrocities in 2014. The Rainbow Flag is the international symbol of LGBT freedom — it is not an endorsement of repression.”

Melanie Nathan, publisher of O-blog-dee, is a strong proponent of moving or boycotting the Winter Olympics.

Showing up to wave rainbow flags is laughable and I have been fighting this suggestion on Facebook for weeks. The only way Putin will get it is if we cancel, move the games and exclude Russia. That is unless Putin revoked the anti-gay laws immediately, of course. If America shows up, then we are endorsing Putin’s anti-gay laws and providing license for more atrocities.

Written by Colin Stewart

Colin Stewart is a 45-year journalism veteran living in Southern California. He is the president of the St. Paul’s Foundation for International Reconciliation, which supports LGBTQ+ rights advocacy journalism, Erasing 76 Crimes. Contact him at info@76crimes.com.

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