By Michelle Garcia
Originally published on Advocate.com February 03 2014 1:00 PM ET
With the Winter Olympics coming to Russia for the first time in decades, the world is watching, especially thanks to the country's law barring "gay propaganda." It's now illegal to mention anything pro-gay while in the presence of minors, or face the wrath of Vladimir Putin's bigotry. On top of that, countless reports of attacks on LGBT Russians (with little being done by law enforcement to stop it) makes the climate there frightening.
Many outside of Russia have protested the country's antigay ways. We found some of the most significant examples of how icy things have gotten between Putin, the Kremlin, and the rest of the world.
American Kennel Club politely but firmly urged the organizers of the 2016 World Dog Show to move the event out of Russia, arguing that "our dogs love us unconditionally." And, "Dogs do not discriminate." In their letter, the president and the board chairman of the kennel club made it clear what will happen if the event stays in Russia: "AKC cannot and will not support participation in the 2016 World Dog Show if it is held in Russia."
Someone in Russia apparently thought it would be a great idea for Cher to perform at the Opening Ceremonies. Cher did not agree. She told Maclean's magazine, "I immediately said no. I want to know why all of this gay hate just exploded over there."
German president Joachim Gauck and French president François Hollande each announced they would not attend the Olympics. The French president, who rallied his country to pass marriage equality, left it a little vague about why he's staying home. But Gauck sure didn't. He's boycotting.
Elton John went on with a mini-tour in Russia, specifically to violate the propaganda law. He told The Guardian that he considered a boycott and opted for something more confrontational: "There's two avenues of thought: Do you stop everyone going, ban all the artists coming in from Russia? But then you're really leaving the men and women who are gay and suffering under the antigay laws in an isolated situation. As a gay man, I can't leave those people on their own without going over there and supporting them."
Things are already pretty dicey between the U.S. and Russia, but President Obama and Vice President Biden also will not head to Sochi. While they won't say it's because of the antigay law, they're sending a delegation that includes gay former Olympians, Billie Jean King, Brian Boitano, and Caitlin Cahow. Then Obama used his State of the Union to make a veiled slam at Russia's antigay policies.
Lady Gaga voiced her disappointment at the United States’ decision to compete in the upcoming Winter Olympics in Sochi, instead of boycotting the games. Earlier in the year, she traveled to Russia herself and held a concert in which she spoke out against the country's policies. It led to Russia challenging her visa to ever return.
NBC Sports anchor Bob Costas says he did not want to become part of the story by interjecting his own commentary, but he wants Putin to talk about the law. "If Putin doesn’t drag his butt into the studio, then we’ll talk about it without him," he said.
LGBT activists unfurled a massive rainbow banner to protest "Russia Day" at the New York Stock Exchange.
The first thing Nadezhda Tolokonnikova did after being released from prison was call for a boycott of the Winter Olympics. A member of Russia's famed radical feminist band, Pussy Riot, Tolokonnikova was freed after nearly two years in prison for propaganda. As the Olympics approached, Putin suddenly released a series of political prisoners who were triggering bad PR.
Notorious, street artist Banksy is rumored to be headed to Russia just in time for the Sochi games. Who knows what amazing subversive art he may reveal during the opening ceremonies?
WHAT WILL YOU DO? Share your plans to protest Russia during the Olympics in the Comments section below.