During an appearance Tuesday night on The Tonight Show, President Obama told Jay Leno that he condemns Russia’s new anti-gay laws banning “gay propaganda” — i.e. any public display that supports or promotes homosexuality. He has “no patience” for countries that target the LGBT community because he believes that people should be treated “fairly and justly”:
OBAMA: I’ve been very clear that when it comes to universal rights, when it comes to people’s basic freedoms, that whether you are discriminating on the basis of race, religion, gender or sexual orientation, you are violating the basic morality that I think should transcend every country. And I have no patience for countries that try to treat gays or lesbians or transgender persons in ways that intimidate them or are harmful to them.
Now, what’s happening in Russia is not unique. When I traveled to Africa, there were some countries that are doing a lot of good things for their people, who we’re working with and helping on development issues, but in some cases have persecuted gays and lesbians. And it makes for some uncomfortable press conferences sometimes. But one of the things that I think is very important for me to speak out on is making sure that people are treated fairly and justly, because that’s what we stand for. And I believe that that’s a precept that’s not unique to America, that’s something that should apply everywhere.
Obama went on to say that if Russia wants to “uphold the Olympic spirit,” then people’s sexual orientation shouldn’t have any impact on their ability to participate in the games.
The President joins 83 members of Congress who have expressed concern for the safety of LGBT athletes and fans who might attend next year’s Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. In a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry, they expressed hope that diplomatic measures would be taken to prevent anyone from being arrested, detained, or otherwise penalized.
The New York Times’ Frank Bruni has suggested that the Olympics will be an important opportunity for Americans to show their support for LGBT equality.