State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki on Friday said the U.S. does not support a boycott of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, over the country’s LGBT rights record.
“That’s certainly not what we’re calling for,” she told reporters during her daily press briefing.
Psaki’s comments come a day after reports emerged of Russian ultra-nationalists torturing gay teenagers whom they met through fake accounts they set up on a social media network.
A growing number of American LGBT rights advocates have urged the U.S. to boycott the Sochi games in response to laws banning so-called gay propaganda and same-sex couples from adopting Russian children that Vladimir Putin recently signed. Several gay bars in Seattle, Chicago, London and other cities have also stopped serving Russian vodka in response to growing anti-LGBT discrimination and violence in the country.
The State Department has repeatedly spoken out against LGBT-specific human rights abuses in Russia, but Psaki told the Washington Blade she didn’t have “any conversations to read out or predict” that may take place between Secretary of State John Kerry and Putin and his Russian colleagues.
“The U.S. of course places great importance on the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms of all people–including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people,” Psaki said in response to the Blade’s question on the issue. “Human rights in general is certainly an issue that comes up regularly and is a priority for the U.S. and our relationship with Russia and many other countries. He does bring up the issues broadly and I’m sure will moving forward.”
Psaki’s comments also come less than a week after authorities in the Russian city of Murmansk arrested four Dutch LGBT rights advocates under the country’s anti-gay propaganda law.
“We’d certainly call on Russia to uphold its international commitments regarding freedom of assembly and association and freedom of expression now and in the future,” Psaki said. “That’s a message I’m certain we will continue to convey.”