Putin Challenges Gay Rights as Olympics Approach

Elizabeth Chenok, Managing Editor

by Elizabeth Chenok


Earlier this year, Russian President Vladimir Putin passed a law that asserts “Gay Propaganda toward youth” unlawful. This means citizens of Russia cannot talk about or promote homosexuality. Committing this “crime” is punishable by law, and fines range from $150 to $6,000, with possible jail time.

The 2014 Winter Olympics will take place in Sochi, Russia, and this law will remain. How is this fair to gay and lesbian athletes, let alone citizens? Having the Olympics in Russia continues the cycle of homophobia and discrimination toward the LBGTQ community.

This being said, many people, both in Russia and in other countries,  especially those with a more accepting community, are outraged at Russia’s law. Though Putin has prohibited any form of demonstration during the Olympics, it would be beneficial if gay-rights activists continued the fight despite their laws to raise awareness of equality for all.

“I believe that the Olympics should not simply be a platform for sports, or that it should concentrate solely on winners and losers, bronze and silver,” junior Anita Levin, head of the Gay-Straight Alliance at Miramonte said. “The Olympics have always had beautiful mission to promote non-discrimination and respect of different cultures. All ways of life come together there.”

Putin has claimed he does not want outsiders to feel uncomfortable or unwelcome in Russia, especially after a boycott of the Olympics was discussed. How can people feel welcome in a place where either they or people close to them could be arrested on the streets for showing affection to the one they love? The International Olympics Committee (IOC) has assured athletes and spectators alike that they will not face discrimination; however it is unsure how much athletes will be silenced. The law still says that any form of gay “propaganda” is illegal.

“International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach has been asked to launch an independent investigation into the complexities and small print of the discriminatory Russian law, so that is a promising step in the right direction,” Levin said.

The fight for gay equality has been an uphill battle, making leaps and bounds in the past couple years with the end of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and legalizing the bond of gay marriage in 16 states, Hawaii being the most recent. Discrimination based on sexual orientation should be in the past. The idea of the world uniting together in the 2014 Olympics in a country that does not support every person is wrong.

Support for gay rights needs to be promoted to world wide culture, and the Olympics is a perfect platform to promote this. It is an opportunity for the whole world to come together on this cause. The youth culture needs to be exposed to healthy and loving relationships; whether they are gay or straight doesn’t matter. Silencing anyone, let alone role models for youth everywhere is wrong.