When Russian President Vladimir Putin signed into Russian legislation a law that criminalized all conduct supporting, encouraging or positively portraying the LGBT orientation in June 2013, it sparked an international outcry that has been growing in intensity, especially leading into the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. This broad law specifically bans “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations,” making it illegal to distribute information on gay rights or even suggest that homosexual relationships are equal to their heterosexual counterparts. The law was originally conceived and enacted to protect the well-being of minors, but it has been enforced through countless brutal civil rights violations that have outraged human rights activists and world leaders alike.
Following the legislation’s passing, President Obama met with Russian gay-rights activists and stated that he would keep pressuring Russia to respect human rights. In a sign of continued solidarity, Obama will not be attending the Olympics in Sochi, and he has responded further by wishing gay athletes to come out and win gold medals in the face of Russian law. While no out LGBT athletes are representing the United States in the 2014 games, Obama has named openly gay Olympic gold medalist Brian Boitano and lesbian former U.S. hockey Olympian (and current law student) Caitlin Cahow to the official U.S. delegation for the Olympics. “There is no doubt we wanted to make it very clear that we do not abide by discrimination in anything, including discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation,” Obama said. “One of the wonderful things about the Olympics is that you are judged by your merit, how good you are regardless of where you come from, what you look like, who you love and that I think is consistent with the spirit of the Olympics.” Naming out former Olympians to the U.S. delegation sends a clear message from the United States to Putin and the International Olympic Committee.
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