By Sunnivie Brydum
Originally published on Advocate.com October 11 2013 4:03 PM ET
Partially in response to Russia's increasingly violent anti-LGBT climate in the run-up to the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, the U.S. Olympic Committee today announced that it's amended its code of conduct to expressly prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, reports BuzzFeed.
Scott Blackmun, the USOC's chief executive officer, announced the news at an assembly Friday, citing Russia's recently enacted nationwide ban on "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relationships" in front of minors, which has seen LGBT Russians and tourists arrested, beaten, and harassed for waving rainbow flags or speaking out in support of the LGBT community.
"I want to address the legislation in Russia prohibiting advocacy of nontraditional relationships among minors," said Blackmun. "Even though we have been assured by the IOC that the new law will not directly impact anybody in Russia for the Games, it is important for us to emphasize that we believe the law is inconsistent with the fundamental principles of the Olympic and Paralympic movements. To bring that point home, yesterday, our board voted to amend the USOC’s code of conduct to include specific mention of sexual orientation in our own nondiscrimination policy."
Blackmun clarified that the USOC does not support the so-called gay propaganda law, and pointed to American Olympians who've recently spoken out against Russia's antigay climate, including Nick Symmonds and Bode Miller.
Blackmun also said the USOC is seeking "more clarity" from the International Olympic Committee on what will and will not be considered violations of an Olympic charter provision that bans "demonstration or political, religious, or racial propaganda," from "any Olympic sites, venues, or other areas."
After asking for repeated "assurances" that Russia's anti-LGBT laws won't impact Olympic athletes and spectators, the IOC said in September that it is "completely satisfied" with vague promises from Russian diplomats that LGBT athletes and spectators will be safe during the Winter Games. Notably, the IOC's charter does not enumerate sexual orientation among its protected traits in its nondiscrimination policy.