Last month, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a bill into law that bans ”propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations” and threatens openly gay or “pro-gay” citizens and foreigners with fines, arrests and possible jail time. Another new law restricts adoptions of Russian children by people in countries that allow same-sex marriage.
With the 2014 Winter Olympics set to take place in Sochi, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) says it has received assurances ”from the highest level of government in Russia that the legislation will not affect those attending or taking part in the Games.” It pledged to ensure there would be no discrimination against athletes, officials, spectators or the media during the games.
Many equal-rights activists are unimpressed with the IOC’s response, and feel that whether or not the laws directly affect the games is far from the point. ”They should be advocating for the safety of all LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) people in Russia, not simply those visiting for the Olympics,” said Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin. ”Rescinding this heinous law must be our collective goal.”
In order to make their voices heard, activists have been writing petitions and staging boycotts.
The “Dump Russian Vodka” campaign, started by internationally syndicated sex columnist Dan Savage, has prompted bars across the US, UK, Canada and Australia to stop serving Russian brands like Stolichnaya. In response, Stolichnaya’s CEO Val Mendeleev wrote an open letter last week condemning the recent laws and reaffirming the brand’s commitment to the LGBT community. The brand’s website has also undergone an overhaul, and now features a rainbow block of text boasting that the brand “stands strong and proud with the global LGBT community against the attitude and actions of the Russian government.” (We’d call this a winning damage control response) Read more