August 21, 2013 | by Michael K. Lavers
Russian official again defends anti-gay law
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)

Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko on Aug. 18 once again defended his country’s law that bans gay propaganda to minors.

“We want to protect our children whose psyches have not formed from the propaganda of drug use, drunkenness and non-traditional sexual relations,” he said during a press conference in Moscow as the Associated Press reported.

Mutko also said the law that President Vladimir Putin signed in June will not affect athletes and others who attend the 2014 Winter Olympics that will take place in Sochi, Russia, in February.

“I can say once again that the freedoms of Russians and foreign athletes and guests who come to Sochi will be absolutely protected,” Mutko said.

Growing outrage over the gay propaganda law and Russia’s LGBT rights record continues to threaten to overshadow the Sochi games.

Russian chess champion Gary Kasparov and playwright Harvey Fierstein are among those who have called for a boycott of the Olympics. Author Dan Savage, LGBT rights advocate Cleve Jones and others have called for a boycott of Russian vodka.

Gay Olympic diver Greg Louganis, who was unable to compete in the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow because then-President Jimmy Carter boycotted them over the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan the year before, is among those who feel the U.S. should compete in Sochi. President Obama, retired tennis champion Martina Navratilova and a number of LGBT advocacy groups that include Athlete Ally also oppose an Olympic boycott.

Athletes take sides on anti-gay law

American runner Nick Symmonds criticized Russia’s gay propaganda ban after he competed at the World Athletic Championships in Moscow last week. High jumper Emma Green Tregaro and sprinter Mao Hjelmer, who are from Sweden, painted their fingernails in rainbow colors as they competed in the same event.

The AP reported Green Tregaro wore red fingernail polish as she competed in a high jump competition on Aug. 17 because Swedish athletic officials reportedly asked her to change their color.

Yelena Isinbayeva, a Russian Olympic pole vault champion, criticized Green Tregaro and Hjelmer during an Aug. 15 press conference after she won her third world title at the World Athletic Championships. Isinbayeva also defended the gay propaganda law.

“We have our law that everyone has to respect,” she said.

Kseniya Ryzhova told Russian reporters during a Moscow press conference earlier this week that she felt insulted over reports that suggested she and Tatyana Firoya challenged the gay propaganda law when they kissed on the medal podium at the World Athletic Championships on Aug. 18 after they won the women’s 4 x 400 meter rally.

“There was no hidden political motive,” Ryzhova said, as Reuters reported.

Meanwhile, the Miss Universe Organization on Aug. 20 expressed concern over the gay propaganda law and the ongoing anti-LGBT crackdown in Russia.

“The law, as well as the violence experienced by the LGBT community in Russia, are diametrically opposed to the core values of our company,” it said in a statement that GLAAD released. “Our organization has always embodied a spirit of inclusion and is a celebration of people from all countries and walks of life.”

The statement comes less than a week after Andy Cohen told E! News he turned down a request to co-host the 2013 Miss Universe pageant that will take place in Moscow in November, in part, because “he didn’t feel right as a gay man stepping foot into Russia.” Francisco Pascuzzi, a gay man from Somerville, N.J., urged the Miss Universe Organization that Donald Trump co-owns with NBC Universal in a Change.org petition to relocate this year’s pageant from the Russian capital over the country’s LGBT rights record.

Cohen could not be reached for comment.

Trump’s representatives last week did not return the Washington Blade’s request for an interview.

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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