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Putin: Gays welcome at Olympics as long as children left ‘in peace’

Russian president made controversial comments in Sochi

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Vladimir Putin, Russia, gay news, Washington Blade

Vladimir Putin, Russia, gay news, Washington Blade

Russian President Vladimir Putin (Photo public domain)

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday said gays and lesbians are welcome to attend next month’s 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, as long as they “leave the children in peace.”

“We have no ban on non-traditional sexual relations,” Putin said in response to a question an Olympics volunteer asked him during a meeting in the Black Sea resort city about Russia’s law that bans gay propaganda to minors as the Associated Press reported. “We have a ban on propaganda of homosexuality and pedophilia, I want to underline that, on propaganda among minors.”

The AP reported Putin also addressed lingering concerns that gays and lesbians who travel to Sochi for the games would face discrimination under the controversial propaganda law he signed last June.

“We aren’t banning anything, we aren’t rounding up anyone, we have no criminal punishment for such relations unlike many other countries,” he said. “One can feel relaxed and at ease, but please leave the children in peace.”

LGBT rights advocates in Russia and in the U.S. blasted Putin’s comments.

“This statement demonstrates very well how the official discourse labels LGBT people as a threat to children, instilling fear and hatred in the society,” Anastasia Smirnova, spokesperson for a coalition of six Russian LGBT advocacy groups that includes the Russian LGBT Network, told the Washington Blade. “This is what leads to the ‘social cleansing’ performed by vigilantes across Russia, and this is what leaves LGBT youth marginalized and completely isolated. And this is the climate to which the world is invited to experience the Olympic spirit.”

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) described Putin’s comments as “sickening.”

“His obvious implication that gays prey on children is a desperate excuse for his homophobic stance and policies,” Florida Republican told the Blade. “What Putin doesn’t say is Russia does in fact have an alarming record of child abuse, but that is it not due to the gay community.”

Jamie Kirchick, a journalist who has urged the Obama administration to freeze the assets of Russian citizens and officials directly behind the country’s anti-LGBT crackdown and prevent them from entering the U.S. under a 2012 law, described Putin’s comments as a “reminder” of the Kremlin’s “war on gay people.”

“The association of homosexuality and pedophilia is one of the oldest and nastiest slurs used against gay men, and has provoked countless acts of violence and murder against them through the ages,” Kirchick told the Blade. “His statement that gays are welcome in Russia provided they stay away from children is like inviting a black family into your home but warning them not to touch the silver.”

Putin told reporters during an October press conference in Sochi with International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach that gays and lesbians will not suffer discrimination during the games. The IOC has repeatedly asserted it has received assurances from the Kremlin the gay propaganda ban will not affect athletes and others who plan to travel to the games, even though Russian officials have previously said the statute will apply to those who attend the Olympics.

The U.S. State Department last week issued an alert to Americans who plan to travel to Sochi that highlighted, among other things, the vagueness of Russia’s gay propaganda law.

“The U.S. government understands that this law applies to both Russian citizens and foreigners in Russia,” reads the advisory. “Russian authorities have indicated a broad interpretation of what constitutes ‘LGBT propaganda’ and provided vague guidance as to which actions will be interpreted by authorities as ‘LGBT propaganda.’”

Putin on Friday also discussed his position on gay rights an interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos in Sochi that is scheduled to air in its entirely on “This Week with George Stephanopoulos” on Jan. 19.

A full transcript of the interview was not immediately available, but ABC reported Putin told Stephanopoulos the gay propaganda law does not ban homosexuality in his country. The network reported the Russian president stressed the statute only prohibits “homosexual ‘propaganda’ around minors.”

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1 Comment

  1. Ron Lambert

    January 18, 2014 at 5:26 pm

    read and listened to the BBC reporter and the staged once in a life time interview with Putin and ended with the audio comment that 'he thinks he is winning'.
    Does Putin think he is winning the Western World over with this interview and press release? I think otherwise and that USA and Canada together will be winning with our actions and pro LGBT positioned people who will give signs and signals of winning a podiums and athlete villages.
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-25785161

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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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