Catching flack from the global gay community, 61-year-old Russian President Vladimir Putin finds himself defending Russia’s new anti-gay law that he claims was designed to protect children. “It seems to me that the law hat we have adopted does not hurt anyone,” Putin told a group of reporters, including ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, a gay American journalist. Making much ado about nothing for the Feb. 7 Sochi Winter Olympics, the so-called anti-gay law passed by the Russian Duma and signed by Putin June 30, 2013 forbids adults from disseminating information to minors about the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities. Russia’s law explicitly bans “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations,” imposing fines on anyone disseminating information about alternative lifestyles to minors. Putin insists that, despite the new law, gays and lesbians are not discriminated against in Russia.
Unfounded warnings have gone out to the global LGBT community, discouraging them from attending the Sochi Winter Olympics. “Moreover, individuals on non-traditional orientation cannot feel like second-rate humans in this country because they are not discriminated against in any way,” Putin told reporters, rejecting assertions about widespread bias against LGBT folks in Russia. Russia’s no stranger to political protests over its 2000 Summer Games in Moscow, when former President Jimmy Carter boycotted the U.S. Olympic team because of Russia’s Afghanistan invasion. LBGT advocates claim the new Russian “anti-propaganda” law, in effect, bans any overt expression of homosexuality. Five hundred-plus miles north of Sochi, LGBT activist Pavel Lebedev was arrested for showing a rainbow gay pride flag, raising concerns to gays about attending the Sochi Olylmpics.
No matter what Putin’s excuse, it’s impossible to win against the politically correct pro-gay-lesbian lobby that’s turned sexual orientation into a universal civil right. Explaining how misguided laws don’t really discriminate against gays doesn’t convince the pro-gay lobby. “It has nothing to do with persecuting people for their non-traditional orientation,” Putin told reporters. “My personal position is that society must keep children safe,” showing twisted logic behind Russia’s June 30, 2013 anti-gay propaganda law. There’s no scientific proof that so-called gay-propaganda can turn any heterosexual—no matter how young and impressionable—into a homosexual or lesbian. Suggesting that stopping teachers, counselors, sex educators from talking about non-traditional orientation protects children isn’t supported by the scientific community that studies sexual orientation.
Putin has assured the International Olympic Committee that gays and lesbians won’t be harassed in Sochi or anywhere else in Russia. “It couldn’t care less about their sexual orientation. We will welcome all athletes and all visitors to the Olympics,” said Putin, disputing claims that outspoken gays would be subject to arrest or legal persecution. “None of our guests will have any problems,” assuring visitors that Russian authorities won’t single out gays and lesbians, no matter how outspoken. Former women’s tennis great and gay activist Bill Jean King told ABC’s Amy Robach that she wanted Putin to change the new anti-gay law. “Please change this law. Just be inclusive—champion everyone, don’t—have groups where you don’t treat them the same,” said King, using the Sochi games to politicize the gay and lesbian agenda, something against the Olympic charter.
Before Western journalists get seduced into the global fight for gay rights, they should accept the Olympics as a once-in-four-years amateur sporting competition, not a place for advancing political agendas. Advancing same-sex marriage or gay and lesbian rights in the States doesn’t mean that other countries can’t advocate and preserve more conventional social norms. “The propaganda laws are almost the least of it. It’s a huge concerted campaign that unleashed by the Kremlin. It’s a campaign of hatred and violence,” said a Russian-American journalist Marsha Gessen who fled to New York to escape Russia’s anti-propaganda law. Gessem sees anti-propaganda laws as making gays and lesbians second-class citizens. Claiming the law protects children doesn’t rule out the discrimination that makes it more difficult for gays and lesbians to live normal lives in Russia.
Putin’s excuses about Russia’s anti-gay-lesbian propaganda law doesn’t change the fact that the law singles out one group to stop talking about their sexual orientation. Putin should have asked the upper and lower Russian parliament to prove, before signing the law, that talking about sexual orientation harm’s children. Putin showed his vindictive side commenting about 30-year-old National Security Agency leaker and U.S. fugitive Edward Snowde, insisting he could attend the Sochi games if he buys a ticket. While Putin said he wanted the Sochi games to improve relations with the U.S., he also rubbed salt into U.S. wounds defending Snowden. “Politics should not interfere with sports. And sports should not interfere with politics,” said Putin, alluding to Carters’s past mistake of boycotting the 2000 Moscow Summer Olympics. Bringing up Snowden only makes matters worse.
About the Author
John M. Curtis writes politically neutral commentary analyzing spin in national and global news. He’s editor of OnlineColumnist.com and author of Dodging The Bullet and Operation Charisma.