“They write laws to codify bigotry against people whose sexual orientation they condemn,” McCain wrote in an op-ed titled “Russians deserve better than Putin” the Russian online newspaper Pravda published. “They throw the members of a punk rock band in jail for the crime of being provocative and vulgar and for having the audacity to protest President Putin’s rule.”
McCain’s comments come in response to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s comments against the United States’ potential military strike against Syria over its use of chemical weapons against civilians last month that he made in an op-ed the New York Times published on Sept. 11. The Arizona Republican’s statements also come against the backdrop of growing outrage over the Kremlin’s LGBT rights record ahead of the 2014 Winter Olympics that will take place in Sochi, Russia, in February.
Putin in June signed a bill that bans gay propaganda to minors. A second law that bans same-sex couples and anyone else from a country that allows same-sex marriage from adopting Russian children took effect in July.
A 2012 law requires organizations that receive funding from outside Russia to register as “foreign agents.”
Actor and playwright Harvey Fierstein and others have called for a boycott of the Sochi games over Russia’s gay rights record. Author Dan Savage and LGBT rights advocates Cleve Jones are among those who 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, opposes a boycott of the Sochi games. President Obama, retired tennis champion Martina Navratilova, Outsports.com and the Dutch LGBT advocacy group COC Nederland have also taken a similar position.
Obama on Sept. 6 met with LGBT Network Director Igor Kochetkov and Olga Lenkova, spokesperson for Coming Out, a Russian LGBT advocacy group, during a meeting he had with nine activists at the G-20 summit in St. Petersburg. The president last month cited Russia’s gay rights record as among the factors that prompted him to cancel a meeting with Putin that had been scheduled to take place in Moscow before the gathering.
“It is important for us to remember that in every country — here in Russia, in the United States, around the globe — that part of good government is making sure that we’re creating a space for civil society to function effectively: freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, making sure that people can join together and make common cause around the issues that they care deeply about,” Obama told the advocates during the Sept. 6 meeting that National Security Adviser Susan Rice and U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul also attended.
Putin spokesperson Dmitri S. Peskov dismissed McCain’s comments.
“As far as the question of what Russians deserve is concerned, they are able to answer this question on their own, and they do so when elections are held,” Peskov told Russian news agencies as the New York Times reported. “I do not think that the opinion of any person who lives overseas can play any role in swaying Russians’ preferences.”
Log Cabin Republican Executive Director Gregory T. Angelo welcomed McCain’s comments.
“The president’s silence was deafening in the wake of Putin’s insulting New York Times op-ed, so once again Republicans are carrying the water for an administration out of its depth on international policy,” he told the Washington Blade. “As the only national gay rights organization to demand the Obama administration take action on Russia and its anti-gay laws, Log Cabin Republicans is proud to stand with Sen. McCain against Russian oppression and bigotry.”