Queer Nation, Harvey Fierstein and Russian LGBT Activists Denounce IOC Plan for Two-Week Suspension of Russian Anti-Gay Law
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: New York, NY (August 12, 2013) Activists advocating boycotts of Russian products and the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi are demanding that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) seek a repeal of Russia's anti-gay law rather than a two-week suspension of the law during the Games. This follows an admission by a senior IOC member that Russia's recently enacted anti-gay law violates the Olympic charter's ban on discrimination.
"They (the Russian government) have accepted the words of the Olympic Charter and the host city contract, so either they respect it or we have to say goodbye to them," said Gerhard Heiberg, IOC member from Norway, in an August 11 Associated Press story.
The IOC is seeking a suspension of Russia's ban on pro-gay statements and demonstrations in public or private and on the Internet during the Games. The Russian law has already led to arrests, fines and brutal attacks on LGBT Russians and harassment and deportation of LGBT foreigners visiting Russia.
Activists are condemning the IOC's effort to put a special, temporary deal in place for the duration of the Games in Sochi.
"My family is being driven out of Russia because these laws allow the government to step in and take away the three children my partner and I are raising together," said Masha Gessen, lesbian activist, journalist and the author of The Man Without a Face, the 2012 biography of Vladimir Putin. "Suspending these laws in Sochi for two weeks won't help ordinary gay men and lesbians in the rest of Russia once the Olympics leaves town. The IOC is saying, in essence, that it is willing to work with a fascist government as long as international visitors are protected. This is a profoundly immoral position."
Alexei Davydov, a Moscow-based activist whose friend, Gleb Latnik, was kidnapped and beaten nearly to death after organizing a protest against the laws in Yekaterinburg, Russia's third-largest city, described the circumstances as dire.
"To be gay and Russian is to live in fear," Davydov said. "We are being harassed, arrested, jailed, attacked, and murdered merely for being gay."
Actor Harvey Fierstein, whose July 22 editorial in The New York Times was among the voices that launched the global Boycott Russia movement, called for the repeal of Russia's anti-gay law in a statement to Queer Nation.
"Finally the IOC realized that the Games cannot go on while these anti-gay laws stand. But suspension of these laws for two weeks is not enough," he said. "Our lives, our families, our freedom are endangered while laws like these are tolerated anywhere in the world. We demand the repeal of Putin's propagandistic legislation. We now put the world community on notice that we are no longer available to be your scapegoats. Enough."
While Fierstein praised President Barack Obama for his recent supportive rhetoric, he slammed world leaders, including Obama, for their inaction.
"I was glad to see President Obama upset by the abuse the LGBT community is suffering at the hands of the Russian government, but outrage is not enough," Fierstein said. "These are not bullies saying unkind things in a schoolyard. These are heads of state enacting a national policy of bigotry aimed at limiting the freedoms of an entire minority."
The anti-gay law has prompted a global outcry. Activists have protested at Russian embassies and consulates from Mexico City to Tel Aviv, in London and Antwerp, and across North America. Responding to the boycott call, hundreds of bars and restaurants world have stopped serving Russian vodka.
#DumpRussianVodka is a global boycott and protest campaign to draw attention to and help stop Russian persecution of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people. www.dumprussianvodka.com .
RUSA LGBT is a Russian-Speaking American LGBTQ association formed in 2008 to establish a network for those who identify with Russian-speaking and LGBTQ cultures. RUSA LGBT fights for social justice, human and civil rights for LGBTQ people in the United States and in the former Soviet Union. www.rusalgbt.com Twitter: @RUSALGBT .
Queer Nation is a direct action group dedicated to ending discrimination, violence and repression against the LGBT community. www.queernationny.org Twitter: @QueerNationNYCONTACT: Queer Nation: email@example.com .