For months, gay rights advocates have been up in arms over the draconian laws that have essentially outlawed homosexuality in Russia. In June, the Russian government passed a bill that stigmatizes the gay community and prohibits educating children on homosexuality, or “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations”—which seems to extend to any public expression of homosexuality.
Since being signed into law by Russian President Vladimir Putin, the legislation has only added to the atmosphere of intolerance and hatred toward members of the LGBT community in that country. In the past, Russian lawmakers have blamed gay people for the nation’s low birthrate and threatened them with exile. Neo-Nazis have bullied and tortured gay Russian teens because they don’t agree with their sexual orientation. Gay rights rallies frequently end in violence.
The Internet has been abuzz with ways to protest the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, since the law was passed. Debate surrounding the February Games has snowballed into a global conversation, turning the upcoming Olympics into one of the most controversial sporting events in years.
At TakePart, we believe the outstanding athletes who make the Games what they are shouldn't be made to suffer because of their sexual orientation or personal relationships.
The unofficial Olympic creed states: "The most important thing is not to win but to take part.” We hope that message takes root during these games. Here’s how you can take part.
The Global Principle 6 Campaign
According to Principle 6 of the Olympic Charter, "any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement."
That includes discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation.
In support of the Olympic message that the practice of sports is a human right, U.S. clothing giant American Apparel has teamed up with nonprofits Athlete Ally and All Out to launch a specially branded clothing line targeting Russia’s anti-LGBT stance. The coalition views the campaign as a means for both athletes and advocates to call for an end to the anti-gay policies prior to the Winter Olympics.
More than 30 Olympians and professional athletes are participating in the movement, including Australian snowboarder Belle Brockhoff and Canadian Alpine skier Mike Janyk.
"By openly supporting Principle 6 at the Winter Games in Sochi, everyone can help uphold and promote the Olympic values of non-discrimination and stand in solidarity with lesbian, gay, bi and trans people in Russia and around the world," Anastasia Smirnova, spokesperson for a leading coalition of Russian LGBT groups, said in a statement.
Principle 6 gear is available online; American Apparel will stock the clothing in stores in January.
It Gets Better, International
In December, the It Gets Better Project launched an international campaign aimed at Russia’s LGBT youths. The new video initiative aims to bring messages of hope and support—in Russian and English—to the estimated 2.5 million gay youths in that country.
"We want every gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individual to know they are beautiful, valued and important, and that their friends and allies in the international community are keeping a close eye on their situation while working to end such injustice,” Executive Director Ted Farley said in a statement.
The campaign encourages gay rights advocates to add their name to the project and submit videos of their own to be shared around the world.
Sochi “Protest Zones”
The International Olympics Committee announced Dec. 10 that protesters will be allowed to advocate and share their views during the Olympics, despite an August presidential decree forbidding any protests over issues not tied to the Games.
While the exact size and location is unclear, organizers have agreed to section off an area where people can gather, demonstrate, and express their opinion during the Games, which take place Feb. 7–23. IOC President Thomas Bach called the move a “measure we welcome so that everybody can express his or her free opinion.”
The Human Rights Campaign’s “Love Conquers Hate”
The HRC is calling on the top sponsors of the International Olympics Committee—including Coca-Cola, General Electric, and Samsung Electronics—to condemn and take action against Russia's draconian anti-LGBT law banning "homosexual propaganda."
The June 2013 law states that people who share information contributing to a "distorted understanding" that gay relationships are equally acceptable—or just as normal—as straight relationships can be fined or thrown in jail. Gay or pro-LGBT foreigners can be detained and deported as well.
The HRC's "Love Conquers Hate" campaign stands in solidarity with members of the Russian LGBT community as well as LGBT advocates in that country. The organization has launched a Love Conquers Hate Collection online; 100 percent of net proceeds from the Russian-language T-shirt benefit LGBT supporters in Russia.
Petition That Urges Olympic Sponsors to Condemn Anti-Gay Laws
One Ohio woman has taken it upon herself to organize a campaign to convince Olympic sponsors such as Procter & Gamble (a Cincinnati-based business) to end their support of the Sochi Games. Julianne Howell’s Change.org petition urges the company and others, such as Panasonic and Visa, to condemn Russia’s anti-gay laws and pull their sponsorship from the Olympics.
“It’s time for these companies to put their support for LGBT people first, and send a message to Russia that their anti-gay laws are not only contrary to basic human rights, but fly in the face of the spirit of the Olympic Games, which celebrate human dignity and community above all else,” she writes.
Her petition has garnered more than 218,000 signatures since August and is backed by the NOH8 Campaign and Perez Hilton, among others.