A new letter from Russian officials to the International Olympic Committee provides no new answers about how the country’s law banning “gay propaganda” will be applied to those participating in the 2014 Winter Games. Though the IOC’s response suggests that gay athletes and attendees at the Olympics will be safe, the statement actually suggests that not even LGBT allies will be protected.
The letter from Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak offers this carefully crafted quote: The anti-gay law “cannot be regarded as discrimination based on sexual orientation.” The IOC suggests this means that “everyone will be welcome at the Games in Sochi regardless of their sexual orientation.” This, however, was never in question.
Russia’s law imposes a sort of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy nationwide. Any public display or advocacy on behalf of the gay community could arguably be construed as “propaganda.” Kozak, himself, asserts in the letter that the law enforces a “restriction of information that promotes non-traditional sexual relationships among children” and that the law will “apply equally to all persons.” Thus, if an athlete wears a rainbow pin and there’s at least one child in the stands, the athlete could be considered in violation of the law.
In other words, the Olympic situation for LGBT individuals continues to be exactly as feared before. The law does not discriminate against gay people, but it does discriminate against homosexuality. IOC has taken the bait of Russia’s spin, but done little to alleviate concerns about safety.