As the hate speech against gays escalates in Russia, the fear of reprisal during the upcoming 2014 Winter Olympics against athletes and spectators has increased.
Safety concerns have led four Florida Congressional Democrats to sign their names to a bipartisan letter to Secretary of State John Kerry. The letter, dated Aug. 2, is signed by nearly 90 members of the U.S. Senate and House including: Rep. Alan Grayson of Orlando, Rep. Alcee L. Hastings of Fort Lauderdale, Rep. Ted Deutch of Boca Raton, and Rep. Ileana Ross-Lehtinen of Miami.
The letter asks Kerry to respond with the diplomatic measures the State Department plans to take to ensure American LGBT athletes, staff, spectators and their supports are not arrested detained or otherwise penalized during the Sochi Games.
On June 30, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law that “will penalize any individuals or groups found to be publicly supportive of LGBT equality. Punishable offenses might include public acknowledgment of one’s orientation, displays of affection between same-sex partners, statements in support of LGBT rights, and the use of symbols such as rainbows that are attributed to the LGBT community.
Foreign nationals found to be in violation of the law could be arrested and detained for up to 15 days, stated the letter.
After the International Olympic Committee promised athletes they would not be affected by Russia’s anti-gay laws, a St. Petersburg (Russia) leader publicly said all laws should be enforced no matter who is breaking them.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), the ranking member of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice who authored the letter, said in a statement that while this is the most recent and most extreme codification of Russia’s maltreatment of its LGBT citizens, it is also part of a larger trend of anti-LGBT actions in Russia.
The letter to Kerry reads: “We urge the State Department to determine the appropriate course of action to assure the safety and well being of LGBT and LGBT-supporting individuals involved in or attending the 2014 Sochi Olympics and Paralympics. We look forward to hearing from you regarding what efforts have been undertaken, especially efforts undertaken in coordination with other foreign governments, and are committed to working together with you on this issue.”