In the midst of American victories for marriage equality and other LGBTQAI+ issues, it is important to both recognize and publicize issues of unjust and ignorant behavior in other parts of the world. Echoes of Martin Luther King Junior’s famous quote come to mind; “None of us are free until all of us are free.”
Russian members of the LGBTQAI+ community have been facing an onslaught of laws, passed by president Vladimir Putin, that persecute and punish individuals based solely on their sexual orientation. Included on the roster of injustices are laws that prohibit “homosexual propaganda” (which can be something as simple as, say, telling children that it’s not a complete abomination to be anything besides straight) and the adoption of Russian-born children by any LGBTQAI+ couples, or any couples or single parents who live in a country where marriage equality is legal in any form.
The most publicized injustice is the law allowing the Russian police to arrest and detain, on sight, any person who openly identifies as or is suspected of being “homosexual, lesbian, or pro-gay,” including tourists and visitors to the country. This law has caused a stir on the internet and on a few news outlets, especially in light of the six month proximity of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games, which Russia is set to host.
The International Olympic Committee has released a statement concerning this particular law, saying that they will protect LGBTQAI+ athletes who wish to compete from persecution and punishment. The statement righteously proclaims that, “The International Olympic Committee is clear that sport is a human right and should be available to all regardless of race, sex or sexual orientation… The Games themselves should be open to all, free of discrimination, and that applies to spectators, officials, media and of course athletes. We would oppose in the strongest terms any move that would jeopardize this principle. ” The committee has not stated exactly how they plan to follow through on their promise to keep LGBTQAI+ competitors safe.
Ambiguity coming from the language used by both Russian law and the Olympic committee’s statement make for much instability and anxiety. What exactly qualifies as “propaganda,” what detainment and arrest entail for LGBTQAI+ individuals, and how the committee intends to “oppose in the strongest terms” these injustices remains to be seen. As the situation unfolds, the writer urges readers to think critically on the aforementioned quote that introduces this article; “None of us are free until all of us are free.”