August 8, 2013 | by Michael K. Lavers
Russian minister urges gay propaganda ban critics to ‘calm down’

Russia, anti-gay, gay news, Washington Blade

Protesters gathered outside of the Russian Embassy on Wednesday, July 31, 2013. (Washington Blade photo by Damien Salas)

Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko on Thursday urged critics of his country’s ban on gay propaganda to minors to “calm down.”

“I want to ask you to calm down as in addition to this law we have a constitution that guarantees all citizens a private life,” he told reporters during a press conference in Moscow as Reuters reported. “It is not intended to deprive people of any religion, race or sexual orientation, but to ban the promotion of non-traditional relations among the young generation.”

Mutko’s comments come a day after the White House cited Russia’s LGBT rights record as among the reasons that prompted President Obama to cancel a scheduled meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin that was to have taken place in Moscow before next month’s G-20 summit in St. Petersburg.

Obama earlier this week weighed in on Russia’s gay propaganda to minors ban during an appearance on NBC’s “The Tonight Show” with Jay Leno.

“I have no patience for countries that try to treat gays or lesbians or transgender persons in ways that intimate them or are harmful to them,” Obama said.

Mutko spoke to reporters amid calls to boycott the 2014 Winter Olympics that will take place in Sochi, Russia, in February.

Playwright Harvey Fierstein is among those who have urged the U.S. and other countries to skip the games. Author Dan Savage and LGBT rights advocate Cleve Jones have also called for a boycott of Russian vodka.

British actor Stephen Fry on Wednesday compared the decision to hold the 2014 Winter Olympics in Russia to Nazi Germany hosting the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin. Gay actor George Takei has also urged the IOC to move the games from Sochi to another city.

Groups present petition to Russian foreign minister

Gay advocacy groups on Wednesday presented a petition with more than 340,000 signatures to the International Olympic Committee in Lausanne, Switzerland, that urges it to pressure Russian officials to protect the rights of their LGBT citizens. All Out on Thursday also delivered the petition to Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Vitaly Cherkin before he met with U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in New York.

Andre Banks, executive director of All Out, also spoke with Cherkin about Russia’s LGBT rights issue for 10 minutes before the meeting.

“The ambassador seemed in-denial about Russian citizens being fined and jailed under this new anti-gay law,” Banks said in a statement. “The Russian government is endangering Russia’s international reputation, and possibly their Olympic ambitions, by not taking seriously the global outcry against these laws.”

The IOC said on July 31 it has “received assurances” from the highest levels of the Russian government the broadly worded gay propaganda to minors ban that Putin signed in June will not affect athletes and others who will attend and participate in the Sochi games. The Associated Press on August 5 reported the organization is engaged in “quiet diplomacy” with senior Russian officials, but Mutko told a Russian sports website last week the gay propaganda law will apply to those who travel to Sochi for the Olympics.

“I was in Sochi yesterday and all the athletes and organizations should be relaxed, their rights will be protected,” Mutko said during the Moscow press conference, according to Reuters. “But of course you have to respect the laws of the country you are in.”

Michael K. Lavers has been a staff writer for the Washington Blade since May 2012. The passage of Maryland's same-sex marriage law, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the burgeoning LGBT rights movement in Latin America and the consecration of gay New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson are among the many stories he has covered since his career began in 2002. Follow Michael

2 Comments
  • "Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko on Thursday urged critics of his country’s ban on gay propaganda to minors…"

    "Around minors" would be more accurate. As I understand it, the law isn't limited to communications to minors. I would also put "propaganda" in quotes. It's a stretch to say that the activities being targeted are really propaganda.

  • Switzerland? They take no sides and care about no one.

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