August 7, 2013 | by Chris Johnson
Obama has ‘no patience’ for Russian anti-gay law
President Obama speaks with Jay Leno on "The Tonight Show" about Russia's anti-gaw law (Screenshot courtesy NBC).

President Obama speaks with Jay Leno on “The Tonight Show” about Russia’s anti-gaw law (Screenshot courtesy NBC).

President Obama on Tuesday weighed in on a Russian law that bans so-called gay propaganda to minors, saying he has “no patience” for countries that would persecute gay and lesbian people.

“I have been very clear that when it comes to universal rights, when it comes to people’s basic freedoms, that whether you’re discriminating on the basis of race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation you are violating the basic morality that I think should transcend every country,” Obama said during a pre-taped appearance on NBC’s “The Tonight Show” with Jay Leno. “And I have no patience for countries that try to treat gays or lesbians or transgender persons in ways that intimidate them or are harmful to them.”

Obama made the remarks amid growing international concern over the anti-gay law in Russia — which criminalized making pro-LGBT statements to minors.

When Leno brought up the law and said it reminded him of the policy of Nazi Germany, Obama condemned the measure and other policies that would discriminate against people. The president added the Russian law isn’t unique and noted other countries such as those in Africa similarly persecute gay people.

“But one of the things I think is very important for me to speak out on is making sure that people are treated fairly and justly because that’s what we stand for, and I believe that that’s a precept that’s not unique to America,” Obama said. “That’s just something that should apply everywhere.”

Obama made reference to the news conference he gave in Senegal during his June trip to Africa in which he said he doesn’t “believe in discrimination of any sort” when asked about the criminalization of homosexuality in that country.

When Leno followed-up by asking if the law would affect the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, amid calls for a boycott, Obama said it’s up to President Vladimir Putin to ensure the safety of LGBT competitors during the games.

“They are athletes,” Obama said. “They are there to compete. And if Russia wants to uphold the Olympic spirit, then every judgment should be made on the track or in the swimming pool or on the balance beam and people’s sexual orientation shouldn’t have anything to do with it.”

Andre Banks, executive director and co-founder of the LGBT international grassroots group All Out, praised Obama for speaking out against the law.

“President Obama really got the message right,” Banks said. “There should be zero tolerance for the anti-gay hate laws recently passed in Russia. Holding the Winter Olympics in Sochi with these laws in place is like holding the Games in Johannesburg at the height of apartheid.”

Watch the video here:

The transcript of the exchange follows:

JAY LENO: Something that shocked me about Russia. I’m surprised this is not a huge story. Suddenly homosexuality is against the law. I mean, this seems like Germany with let’s round up the Jews. Let’s round up the gays. It starts with that.You round up people who you don’t like. I mean, why is not more of the world outraged at this?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, I have been very clear that when it comes to universal rights, when it comes to people’s basic freedoms, that whether you’re discriminating on the basis of race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation you are violating the basic morality that I think should transcend every country, and I have no patience for countries that try to treat gays or lesbians or transgender persons in ways that intimidate them or are harmful to them.

Now, what’s happening in Russia is not unique. When I traveled to Africa there were some countries that are doing a lot of good things for their people, who are working with them and helping them on development issues, but in some cases they persecute gays and lesbians, and it makes for some uncomfortable press conferences sometimes. But one of the things I think is very important for me to speak out on is making sure that people are treated fairly and justly because that’s what we stand for, and I believe that that’s a precept that’s not unique to America. That’s just something that should apply everywhere.

JAY LENO: Do you think it will affect the Olympics?

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  You know, I think Putin and Russia have a big stake in making sure that the Olympics work, and I think that they understand that for most of the countries that participate in the Olympics we wouldn’t tolerate gays and lesbians being treated differently. They are athletes. They are there to compete.  And if Russia wants to uphold the Olympic spirit, then every judgment should be made on the track or in the swimming pool or on the balance beam and people’s sexual orientation shouldn’t have anything to do with it.

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

1 Comment
  • Now if only he could cancel his meetings with the lobbyists who own him and who push the corporate agenda of total surveillance society madness.

    All hail the 2-party system charade of lie-based war, slavery, poverty, pollution, and eradication of human rights!

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