I have somewhat conflicted feelings about the upcoming Olympic Games in Russia and the virulently, violent anti-gay laws there. Some folks say we should boycott the games, but that only punishes the athletes who’ve worked and trained, sometimes their entire lives, for an Olympic medal. Some people say we should boycott Stoli—personally, I have long been a Ketel One man—but isn’t that just punishing the Russian people and not the Russian government? There are some who say we ought to move the games from Russia, but that seems an almost impossible task at this late date—the games are just six months way; is that enough time to ready another venue, even the Vancouver site of the last Winter Games?
But one thing I do know is that we need to, as a people, a country, and a world, demand that this nonsense in Russia end. Being gay is not a crime; saying the word gay is not a crime. We need to stop this before it becomes another Nazi Germany and The Gays are rounded up and killed while we look on in horror, doing nothing.
Think I’m exaggerating?
The new law in Russia—similar to the section 28 law passed by Margaret Thatcher’s government in England in 1988—bans the dissemination of "propaganda of non-traditional sexual orientation" towards under-18s and imposes fines on anyone convicted. You can be fined, or jailed, or worse, for just being gay, for just saying the word, for just coming out as gay.
The legislation has caused many people to demand action in Russia before it becomes another Nazi Germany—this time persecuting, and murdering, gays and lesbians. Last week the International Olympic Committee said it had obtained assurances from the Kremlin that competing athletes would not be affected by the law, but now we’ve learned that is not the case; any athlete who is gay, supports the LGBT community, from any country, is subjected to being arrested and fined and jailed, and maybe worse, in Russia.
It is not a safe place for the LGBT community or its allies.
And, if we continue to let this stand, if we stand by and talk and do nothing else, we are basically becoming co-conspirators to the murder, torture, imprisonment, of gays and lesbians in Russia.
We let this happen once before and millions of Jews were murdered.
Are we going to sit back and let it happen again? Being gay isn’t a crime; being gay should not be against the law. How many LGBT Russians are living in fear that they might be arrested for simply being themselves?
And how are we, as a people, a country, a planet, going to feel if we do nothing?
As I said, a boycott affects the athletes; pouring Stoli down a drain is a symbolic gesture that is a waste of time. Cancel the games; tell Russia that no one is coming; tell Putin that we won’t stand by and clap and cheer as he sends gays and lesbians to their deaths.
Move the games, even if it takes an extra year to find a new venue, or ready a pre-existing one. Move the games and let the athletes compete without fear of persecution, and then, as a people, a country, a world, stand up to Putin and Russia and tell them we will not let this happen.