August 13, 2013 | by Michael K. Lavers
U.S. runner speaks out against anti-gay Russian law in Moscow

Athlete Ally, All Out, IOC, International Olympic Committee, Russia, Sochi, gay news, Washington Blade

Members of All Out and Athlete Ally on August 7 presented a petition with more than 300,000 signatures to the International Olympic Committee that urges it to pressure Russia to end its gay crackdown. (Photo courtesy of All Out)

American runner Nick Symmonds on Tuesday criticized the Russian law that bans gay propaganda to minors as he dedicated the silver medal he won during the International Association of Athletics Federations World Championship in Moscow to his gay friends.

“As much as I can speak out about it, I believe that all humans deserve equality as however God made them,” the two-time Olympian told the Russian news agency RIA Novosti after he came in second in the men’s 800 meter final during the IAAF World Championship at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium. “Whether you’re gay, straight, black, white, we all deserve the same rights. If there’s anything I can do to champion the cause and further it, I will, shy of getting arrested.”

Symmonds criticized the gay propaganda law in an August 6 post to Runner’s World’s website before he traveled from London to Moscow to compete in the IAAF World Championship. He said in the same post he would not publicly criticize the statute while he was in Russia.

“I say this not out of fear of prosecution by the Russian government, but out of respect for the fact that I will be a guest in the host nation,” Symmonds wrote. “Just as I would not accept a dinner invite to a friend’s house and then lecture them on how to raise their kids, neither will I lecture the Russian government on how to govern their people.”

Symmonds’ latest comments come a day after the Russian Interior Ministry said it would enforce the gay propaganda law during the 2014 Winter Olympics that will take place in Sochi, Russia, in February.

Figure skater Johnny Weir, whose husband is of Russian descent, told CBS News in an interview posted to its website on August 9 that he is “not afraid of being arrested” while at the Sochi games. Retired tennis champion Martina Navratilova, gay Olympic diver Greg Louganis, President Obama and a coalition of LGBT advocacy groups that include Outsports.com are among those that oppose a boycott of the Olympics.

Out New Zealand speed skater Blake Skjellerup announced last month he will wear a Pride pin while in Sochi.

RIA Novosti reported that Symmonds is the first athlete to publicly criticize the gay propaganda law that President Vladimir Putin signed in June while on Russian soil.

“I respect Russians’ ability to govern their people,” Symmonds told RIA Novosti. “I disagree with their laws. I do have respect for this nation. I disagree with their rules.”

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

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