Russian President Vladimir Putin, while trying to ease fears among LGBT participants and visitors to the upcoming Olympics in Sochi, stated today that “We aren’t banning anything, we aren’t rounding up anyone, we have no criminal punishment for such relations unlike many other countries.” Putin went to say that the law in place bans “propaganda of homosexuality and pedophilia, I want to underline that, on propaganda among minors” and added that while gay visitors are welcome in Sochi they must “leave the children in peace.”
International condemnation on Russia’s anti-gay policy has been wide spread including a demonstration outside the set of the Today Show this morning. A group calling itself Queer Nation staged the protest aimed at NBC, the broadcast partner of the Olympics.
“NBC and Matt Lauer will have remarkable access to Vladimir Putin and the Russian LGBT community,” said Ken Kidd, one of the Queer Nation protesters. “Along with that comes the responsibility to report the real news. We are putting NBC on notice: Making Sochi a two-week travelogue infomercial for Putin would turn NBC into his media collaborators.”
Craig Robinson, NBC Universal’s executive vice president and chief diversity officer, on Thursday sent a memo to all (out) gay and lesbian employees stating that the company “will do everything possible to protect the rights, safety and well-being of our employees.”
He went on to say “The spirit of the Olympic Games is about unifying people and countries through the celebration of sport and it is our very strong hope that spirit prevails. Until then, we have and will continue to cover these human rights violations on our broadcast and cable news networks as the story continues to evolve.”
President Obama has also weighed in on the law in Russia stating he has “no patience for countries that try to treat gays and lesbians and transgendered persons in ways that intimidate them or are harmful to them.” In another clear response to the anti-gay law Obama is sending former tennis star Billie Jean King, who is openly gay, to serve on the U.S. delegation for the opening and closing ceremonies at the games. (Openly gay hockey player Caitlin Cahow will also serve on the delegation)
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