By Sunnivie Brydum
Originally published on Advocate.com February 06 2014 3:46 PM ET
Less than a week before the Opening Ceremonies for the Winter Olympics began in Sochi, Russia, the nation's deputy prime minister doubled down on a line of thought first advanced by president Vladimir Putin last month: Gay Olympians and LGBT spectators are welcome in Sochi, as long as they stay away from children.
Dmitry Kozak, Russia's deputy prime minister, told reporters in Sochi on Tuesday that as a country, Russia does not "differentiate between people depending on their religion or their sexual orientation," according to NBC's translation of the remarks, made in Russian.
But then the deputy prime minister added a comment that seems to support the false connection between homosexuality and pedophilia — which advocates of Russia's ban on so-called gay propaganda say is the reason for prohibiting discussion of LGBT identities in areas visible to minors.
"We are all grownups, and any adult has his or her right to understand their sexual activity," said Kozak, according to NBC. "Please do not touch kids. That’s the only thing. During the opening ceremony, during the closing ceremony, during the sports events, I hope that we will not see such problems."
Russian president Putin made similar remarks to a group of Olympic volunteers in Sochi last month, apparently conflating an LGBT identity with an inherent tendency to abuse children. Addressing the international controversy that has arisen from Russia's ban on "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations" in areas visible to minors that Putin signed into law last summer, Putin explained that his nation does not directly ban same-sex relationships, only "the propaganda of homosexuality and pedophilia."
"We are not forbidding anything and nobody is being grabbed off the street, and there is no punishment for such kinds of relations," continued Putin, according to The Guardian's translation. "You can feel relaxed and calm [in Russia], but leave children alone, please."
The equation of homosexuality with pedophilia is a red herring often brought out by anti-LGBT activists, despite a substantial body of research that indicates most convicted child molesters identify as heterosexual.