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IOC prohibits athletes from challenging anti-gay Russian law at Olympics

Those who violate the rule could face potential disqualification from Sochi games

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Russia, anti-gay, gay news, Washington Blade

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)

The International Olympic Committee on Wednesday reaffirmed to the Washington Blade it will not allow athletes who compete in the 2014 Winter Olympics to publicly challenge Russia’s gay propaganda to minors ban during the games.

The IOC referred the Blade to a portion of the Olympic Charter adopted in 2001 that states “no form of publicity or propaganda, commercial or otherwise, may appear on persons, on sportswear, accessories or, more generally, on any article of clothing or equipment whatsoever worn or used by the athletes or other participants in the Olympic Games” outside of a manufacturer’s logo.

“This rule has been in place for many years and aims to separate sport from politics, honor the context of the Olympic games and ensure the peaceful gathering of athletes from over 200 nations, officials and spectators from all kinds of different cultures and backgrounds,” the IOC told the Blade in a statement. “By its nature, the Olympic games cannot become a platform for any kind of demonstration and the IOC will not accept any proactive gesture that could harm their spirit and jeopardize their future.”

The Olympic Charter further states any athlete who violates the aforementioned rule could face disqualification or loss of their accreditation at the Sochi games.

The IOC Executive Board’s decisions “shall be final,” but the Olympic body told the Blade it would “always treat case individually and take a sensible approach depending on what was said or done.” The IOC did not respond to a follow-up question about what other potential sanctions an athlete who publicly criticizes the law while competing in Sochi could face.

The IOC’s comments come amid widespread outrage over Russia’s ban on gay propaganda that President Vladimir Putin signed into law in June.

Actor and playwright Harvey Fierstein last month called for a boycott of the Sochi games. Author Dan Savage and LGBT rights advocate Cleve Jones are among those who have called for a boycott of Russian vodka.

Andy Cohen on Wednesday 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.”

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

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

American runner Nick Symmonds on August 13 criticized the gay propaganda ban during an interview with the Russian news agency RIA Novosti after he completed the men’s 800 meter final at the International Association of Athletics Federations World Championship in Moscow. Figure skater Johnny Weir, whose husband is of Russian descent, told CBS News earlier this month he is “not afraid of being arrested” while at the Sochi games.

IOC has ‘received assurances’ from Russian government over law

The IOC reiterated to the Blade its previous statements that said it has “received assurances” from the highest level of the Russian government that the gay propaganda ban will “not affect those attending or taking part” in the Sochi games.

The Russian Interior Ministry said in a statement it released on August 12 that it would enforce the law during the Olympics. Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko told reporters during a Moscow press conference last week that those who continue to criticize the statute need to “calm down.”

The IOC did not return the Blade’s follow-up request for comment on Mutko’s statements. It also did not respond to an additional question about Navratilova and others who maintain the IOC should have never awarded Russia the 2014 Winter Olympics because of concerns over its human rights record.

“The International Olympic Committee is clear that sport is a human right and should be available to all regardless of race, sex or sexual orientation,” the IOC told the Blade. “The games themselves should be open to all, free of discrimination and that applies to spectators, officials, media and of course athletes. We would oppose in the strongest terms any move that would jeopardize this principle.”

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11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. Jim Guinnessey

    August 15, 2013 at 6:24 pm

    Money talks to the cowardly IOC and courage takes a walk.

  2. Doug Williams

    August 15, 2013 at 11:33 pm

    more weak minded sheep! Why would I be surprized?

  3. Skeeter Sanders

    August 16, 2013 at 3:03 am

    In the face of the International Olympic Committee’s decision that it will not allow athletes who compete in the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia to publicly challenge Russia’s “gay- propaganda-to-minors” ban during the games, openly LGBT athletes now have a decision to make: Whether to participate in the games or to boycott them.

    As a bisexual man who is not an athlete, it is not up to me to say one way or the other whether LGBT athletes should or should not compete in the Sochi Games. I can speak only for myself, and if I were an athlete, I would decide not to participate in the games, on the grounds that the Russian government runs a serious risk of repeating the precedent set by the Nazis in Germany soon after Adolf Hitler came to power in 1933.

    Within two years, the Nazis passed law after law after law imposing discrimination against Jews — actions that ultimately led to the Holocaust (See the Wikipedia page on the Nuremberg Laws — http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuremberg_Laws).

    What is to prevent the Russian government from falling into the same pattern toward gay people?

  4. Derek Williams

    August 16, 2013 at 5:05 pm

    I don't think it's straw man to conclude that by refusing to move or cancel the Winter Olympics, or to take any firm steps whatsoever to ensure equal treatment for all participants in the games, the IOC implicitly backs the Russian government's popular persecution of gay people and all that connotes.

    We therefore have to look elsewhere for progress on this issue.

  5. LOrion

    August 16, 2013 at 1:21 pm

    SEE this post on ARMENIA…deciding not to follow the American Scott Lively’s advice to write AntiGay Laws.. ALSO see piece on Advocate about his coming up for trial for breaking International Law with his decade of Gay Hate promotion in Uganda. … He could also be sued for his Russian involvement too. GET A REPORTER ON THIS.
    HERE is comment I left under Article on Armenia see link.
    ‘So that’s how he did it, Scott Lively promoted letter writing campaigns by ‘concerned citizens’ to get laws passed.
    Well get on it you folks with AVAAZ, CHANGE, CARE2, CAUSE time for ALL LGBT human right supporters to write THANK YOU letters to Armenia and all other countries, especially in Europe and Eastern Europe who support Gay Rights. Let them know you care!
    Send me links, I will sign and forward around.’

    http://tinyurl.com/kx6r7xc

  6. LOrion

    August 16, 2013 at 1:23 pm

    Scott Lively Will Be Tried under Ia US Law that prohibits Prosetylzing HumanRights Violations. for his DECADE of Fueling Antigay Persecution In #Uganda #Africa #Nigeria #Kenya #SouthAfrica

    NOTE: He also did same in #Russia from 2007 on, till Putin signed national Antigay law. HERE IS YOUR RUSSIAN CRIMINAL!

    http://tinyurl.com/lccpyna

  7. Eric Chamberlain

    August 16, 2013 at 5:38 pm

    The IOC is basically saying that there is no free-speech at the Olympics, only commercial speech. Fine, I choose not to watch the Olympics. Let the athletes compete, if it's about love of the sport, it shouldn't matter if no one watches. Don't boycott, don't watch.

  8. Derek Williams

    August 16, 2013 at 9:05 pm

    The blood on the hands of the Putin regime:

    • Accused of having former KGB officer Alexander Litvinenko poisoned on British soil with Polonium-210 after Litvinenko had exposed Russian secret services' staging Russian apartment bombings and other terrorism acts to bring Vladimir Putin to power.
    • Has made Russia the $1.5 billion arsenal of Assad's Syria, notably S-300 missile systems.
    • Jailed anti-corruption campaigner Alexei Navalny for 5 years after Navalny had exposed billions of dollars in official corruption.
    • Had whistleblowing lawyer Sergei Magnitsky who had exposed $2.5 million in police fraud, arrested by the very police he exposed, who then tortured him to death in prison, after which Putin commended, promoted and decorated said police.
    • In order to shore up the Russian Orthodox religious voting bloc, passed legislation recriminalising homosexuality, thereby allowing police to ignore mob, gang and individual attacks on gay people, including several torturing murders, and arrest instead those who were attacked on charges of ‘extremism’ and ‘homosexual propaganda’.
    • Dismissed popular government news presenter Anton Krasovsky from his job on the spot, without entitlements after he came out as gay.

  9. cinematt

    August 16, 2013 at 6:36 pm

    Since the IOC has whored itself out (again) to its corporate sponsors, maybe the correct approach here is to boycott the products of any company that sponsors the Olympics or Olympic telecasts. If you want to sponsor bigotry, you should pay the price.

  10. Angie Bortel

    August 17, 2013 at 2:53 am

    This is a travesty. I can't believe civil people are tolerating this.

  11. Richard Hathaway

    August 17, 2013 at 4:50 am

    "Straw man". Lol.

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World

Victory Fund honors gay Guatemalan congressman at D.C. conference

Aldo Dávila a vocal critic of country’s government

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Guatemalan Congressman Aldo Dávila speaks at the 2021 International LGBTQ Leaders Conference after he received the Global Trailblazer Award. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

The Victory Fund on Friday honored an openly gay Guatemalan congressman who has faced death threats because of his efforts to fight corruption in his country.

Dávila — a member of the Winaq movement, a leftist party founded by Rigoberta Menchú, an indigenous human rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner — in 2019 became the first openly gay man elected to Guatemala’s congress. Dávila, who also lives with HIV, had previously been the executive director of Asociación Gente Positiva, a Guatemala City-based HIV/AIDS service organization.

Supporters of President Alejandro Giammattei have lodged several formal complaints against Dávila after he publicly criticized the government over corruption, its response to the pandemic and other issues.

Three men on April 19 approached Dávila’s vehicle near Guatemala’s National Library and tried to rob him. One of Dávila’s bodyguards shot one of the men, but the two other assailants fled the scene before police officers and passersby arrived.

Dávila told the Washington Blade in September during an interview at a Guatemala City hotel that he and his partner installed cameras in their apartment after someone killed their dog.

Two female police officers who arrived at the hotel with Dávila sat in the lobby while he spoke with the Blade. The government a few weeks later reduced his security detail.

“Guatemala is living through the worst democratic crisis in the last 40 years,” said Dávila after he accepted the Victory Fund’s Global Trailblazer Award at its 2021 International LGBTQ Leaders Conference that is taking place in-person at the JW Marriott in downtown D.C. “Guatemala right now is being paralyzed by corruption and impunity and my voice is uncomfortable because of this.”

Dávila became emotional at the end of his remarks.

“I will keep fighting for our rights,” he said.

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Comings & Goings

Nathanson takes role at Outright Action

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Rikki Nathanson

The Comings & Goings column is about sharing the professional successes of our community. We want to recognize those landing new jobs, new clients for their business, joining boards of organizations and other achievements. Please share your successes with us at: [email protected] 

The Comings & Goings column also invites LGBTQ+ college students to share their successes with us. If you have been elected to a student government position, gotten an exciting internship, or are graduating and beginning your career with a great job, let us know so we can share your success. 

Congratulations to Rikki Nathanson on her new position as Senior Advisor – Global Trans Program with OutRight Action International in New York. Nathanson will be based in D.C.  

 “I am absolutely thrilled to be taking on this new role as Senior Advisor in OutRight’s Global Trans Program,” said Nathanson. “I have finally found the perfect fit for me: as a trans woman who has been fighting for equality not only for myself, but for others globally, this position is not only a job, it’s intrinsically part of who I am. So, what better way to live, nurture and grow myself.” 

Nathanson will be working closely with all program staff to ensure a cohesive and intentional approach to gender issues throughout OutRight’s programs, including its approach to gender ideology movements. She will lead new initiatives on gender advocacy and policy change, focused but not limited to legal gender recognition and anti-discrimination legislation and policies.

Prior to this Nathanson was director of housing programs at Casa Ruby in D.C. She has also held a number of other positions including: founder/executive director of Trans Research, Education, Advocacy & Training (TREAT), Zimbabwe; chairperson Southern Africa Trans Forum, SATF, Cape Town, South Africa; executive director, Ricochet Modeling Agency, Zimbabwe; and company secretary for Dunlop Zimbabwe Limited, Zimbabwe. 

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SMYAL Director Shakir to step down Dec. 31

Board to launch Executive Search beginning in January

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SMYAL Executive Director Sultan Shakir addresses the crowd at the 2021 Fall Brunch. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Sultan Shakir, who has served as executive director of D.C.’s LGBTQ youth advocacy organization SMYAL since August 2014, announced on Friday that he will be stepping down from his position effective Dec. 31.

In a Dec. 3 announcement, SMYAL said details of Shakir’s future career plans would be announced in the coming weeks.

“While we are sad to see Sultan leave, we wish him nothing but the same success in his new endeavor as he had at SMYAL,” said Rob Cogorno, SMYAL’s board chair. “His leadership and vision enabled SMYAL to expand greatly needed services to LGBTQ youth in the DC metro area throughout his tenure,” Cogorno said.

“I am immensely proud of the work we have been able to accomplish together in my time at SMYAL,” Shakir said in a statement released by SMYAL. “SMYAL has been an integral and vital resource in the DMV community for over 37 years, and while we have come a long way in combating homophobia, transphobia, racism, sexual health stigma, homelessness, violence against the LGBTQ community, and oppression, we have a long way to go,” he said.

“This work has never been about one person,” said Shakir. “SMYAL was founded by our community and we’re still around because of our community,” he said. “I leave knowing that the commitment and passion of the SMYAL Board, staff, volunteers, and youth leaders have created a solid foundation from which our work will continue to grow until LGBTQ youth no longer need us.”

The SMYAL statement says that under Shakir’s tenure, SMYAL, which stands for Supporting and Mentoring Youth Advocates and Leaders, expanded its programs and services for LGBTQ youth. Among other things, in 2017 SMYAL opened its first of several housing facilities for homeless LGBTQ youth that include culturally competent case management, education and employment assistance.

“The Youth Housing Program now comprises five programmatic models that serve a combined 61 youth residents,” the statement says.

It points out that also under Shakir’s leadership, SMYAL expanded the age range of the youth its programs serve under a new Little SMYALs program, which welcomes LGBTQ youth ages 6-12. And earlier in 2021 under Shakir’s guidance, SMYAL began a new Clinical Services Department “which provides affirming and accessible mental health counseling,” the statement says.

“The SMYAL Board of Directors will officially launch an Executive Search beginning in January 2022 and expects to have named a new Executive Director by summer 2022,” the statement says. It says the board will soon name an interim executive director to work with SMYAL’s Deputy Executive Director, Jorge Membreno, and the organization’s leadership team to oversee the day-to-day activities until a new executive director is named.

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