By Daniel Reynolds
Originally published on Advocate.com February 06 2014 2:43 PM ET
The U.N. Secretary General condemned homophobia in remarks preceding the Sochi Olympics.
In a Thursday morning address before the International Olympic Committee, Ban Ki-Moon advocated for an end to worldwide LGBT discrimination and prejudice, particularly in the arena of athletics.
"Many professional athletes, gay and straight, are speaking out against prejudice,” he said, according to The Guardian. “We must all raise our voices against attacks on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or intersex people. We must oppose the arrests, imprisonments and discriminatory restrictions they face."
Urging allies and activists to action, Ki-Moon also reminded the audience of the focus of the U.N. human rights campaign last December, which stressed that "sport comes out against homophobia."
"The United Nations stands strongly behind our own 'free and equal' campaign, and I look forward to working with the IOC, governments and other partners around the world to build societies of equality and tolerance,” he continued. “Hatred of any kind must have no place in the 21st century."
Although he did not specifically mention Russia’s recent antigay legislation by name, Ki-Moon’s comments, delivered on the eve of the Winter Olympics, appear to put pressure on the Russian government to change its stance toward the LGBT community as well as its “gay propaganda” law that effectively prohibits public displays of pride and protest. Ki-Moon did discuss the law with reporters after the address.
"I know there has been some controversy over this issue,” he said. “At the same time, I appreciate the assurances of President Putin that there will be no discrimination and that people with different sexual orientation are welcome to compete and enjoy this Olympic Games."
Putin and Russian deputy prime minister Dmitry Zozak have claimed that LGBT athletes and visitors would not be arrested while attending the games, as long as they did not approach children.
"We don't differentiate between people depending on nationality, religion or sexual relations," Kozak told USA Today. "We are all grown-ups and any adult has the right to understand their sexual acts. Please don't touch the kids, that's the only thing."
Watch Ban Ki-Moon deliver his remarks below.