By Sunnivie Brydum
Originally published on Advocate.com September 26 2013 2:35 PM ET
After repeated requests for "assurances" that Russia's newly enacted ban on so-called homosexual propaganda won't affect the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, the International Olympic Committee today announced that it is "completely satisfied" with vague promises from Russian diplomats that LGBT athletes and spectators will be safe during the Winter Games.
"The Olympic Charter states that all segregation is completely prohibited, whether it be on the grounds of race, religion, color, or other, on the Olympic territory," said Jean-Claude Killy, chairman of the IOC Coordination Commission, at a press conference in Sochi today, according to the Associated Press.
"That will be the case, we are convinced," continued Killy in French, according to a translation from the AP. "Another thing I must add: The IOC doesn't really have the right to discuss the laws in the country where the Olympic Games are organized. As long as the Olympic Charter is respected, we are satisfied, and that is the case."
Russian lawmakers have claimed that the nationwide law, which imposes fines and possible jail time for anyone found spreading "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations" where it might be visible to minors, is not discriminatory, because even heterosexual people can be found guilty of propagandizing about LGBT identities.
In August, Russia's Interior Ministry essentially proposed a "don't ask, don't tell" policy, claiming that spectators and athletes will be safe as long as they "do not conduct any kind of provocation and take part in the Olympics peacefully."
"If people of traditional sexual orientation spread propaganda of nontraditional sex to children, then they will also be held accountable," said Dmitry Kozak, a deputy prime minister in charge of overseeing preparations for the Sochi Olympics, according to the AP. "So there is simply no need to talk about discrimination."
But LGBT advocates the world over disagree, noting that just this week, 10 LGBT activists were arrested for protesting the law in Moscow. President Vladimir Putin also issued an edict banning protests, rallies, or demonstrations of any kind in the entire city of Sochi for the duration of the Olympics, which begin February 7.
"If this law doesn’t violate the IOC’s charter, then the charter is completely meaningless," said Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin in a statement Thursday. "The safety of millions of LGBT Russians and international travelers is at risk, and by all accounts the IOC has completed neglected its responsibility to Olympic athletes, sponsors and fans from around the world. The IOC and its new president, Thomas Bach, are putting the good reputation of the Olympic Games and its corporate sponsors in jeopardy."