WASHINGTON — As a growing number of LGBT advocates have begun to speak out against Russia's increasingly anti-LGBT environment and laws, a spokesman for the largest LGBT rights group in America talked Monday evening for the first time about the calls for a boycott of the 2014 Olympics in Sochi.
"The events unfolding in Russia should rightly cause concern for all fair-minded citizens of the world. They're a complete travesty meant to divert the attention of the Russian people from President Putin's failure as their leader," Human Rights Campaign vice president for communications Fred Sainz told BuzzFeed.
HRC stopped short, however, of taking a position at this time on whether it would add its support to the calls for a boycott of the games.
"Most nations on the cusp of hosting Olympic Games would want to make their country seem more hospitable, not less. The very clear implications of these laws pose real concerns for LGBT Russian citizens and visitors alike," Sainz said. "As such, we're consulting with our partners so that we're acting in a unified manner that is impactful. Stay tuned."
HRC had previously launched a petition-signing drive regarding the "gay propaganda bill" to "IOC President Jacques Rogge demanding that he take action against discrimination now," but the comments from Sainz are the group's first statement since Russian President Vladimir Putin signed the "gay propaganda" bill into law at the end of June.
The statement came after playwright and actor Harvey Fierstein drew attention to the issue in an op-ed column published Monday in The New York Times. In part, he wrote:
With Russia about to hold the Winter Games in Sochi, the country is open to pressure. American and world leaders must speak out against Mr. Putin's attacks and the violence they foster. The Olympic Committee must demand the retraction of these laws under threat of boycott.
In 1936 the world attended the Olympics in Germany. Few participants said a word about Hitler's campaign against the Jews. Supporters of that decision point proudly to the triumph of Jesse Owens, while I point with dread to the Holocaust and world war. There is a price for tolerating intolerance.
The Windy City Times, meanwhile, reported July 17 on a statement from the International Olympic Committee about the ongoing developments in Russia:
"The International Olympic Committee is clear that sport is a human right and should be available to all regardless of race, sex or sexual orientation. The Games themselves should be open to all, free of discrimination, and that applies to spectators, officials, media and of course athletes. We would oppose in the strongest terms any move that would jeopardise this principle.
"As you know, this legislation has just been passed into law and it remains to seen whether and how it will be implemented, particularly as regards the Games in Sochi. As a sporting organization, what we can do is to continue to work to ensure that the Games can take place without discrimination against athletes, officials, spectators and the media. Wider political issues in the country are best dealt with by other international organizations more suited to this endeavor."
U.S. Olympic Committee officials did not respond on Monday to a request for more information about the U.S. group's views on the issue.
Chris Geidner is the legal editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Washington, DC. In 2014, Geidner won the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association award for journalist of the year.
Contact Chris Geidner at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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