On Friday, I mentioned Britney Simpson, one half of the 2013 U.S. Junior Pairs Champion figure skating team, who has two moms. I said it would be great to see both her and her skating partner’s parents in the audience if the pair makes the 2014 Winter Olympics—but forgot that the Games will be held in Russia. Russia’s increasingly harsh anti-gay laws cast Simpson’s moms’ attendance in a very different light.
Thanks to my Twitter follower Maureen Moscato of Whine and Cheese for reminding me of the Games’ location. As fate would have it, actor and playwright Harvey Fierstein wrote an op-ed in the New York Times two days later, excoriating Russian President Vladimir Putin for his anti-gay stance. He notes that “Putin signed a law allowing police officers to arrest tourists and foreign nationals they suspect of being homosexual, lesbian or ‘pro-gay’ and detain them for up to 14 days.”
The International Olympic Committee released a statement saying it would “continue to work to ensure that the Games can take place without discrimination against athletes, officials, spectators and the media,” reports the Windy City Times, but Fierstein believes that regardless of the IOC, “the law could mean that any Olympic athlete, trainer, reporter, family member or fan who is gay—or suspected of being gay, or just accused of being gay—can go to jail.”
Fierstein also reminds us that Putin also signed a law “banning the adoption of Russian-born children not only to gay couples but also to any couple or single parent living in any country where marriage equality exists in any form,” and “it is rumored that Mr. Putin is about to sign an edict that would remove children from their own families if the parents are either gay or lesbian or suspected of being gay or lesbian. The police would have the authority to remove children from adoptive homes as well as from their own biological parents.”
Simpson and her moms are clearly not the only—or even primary—ones at stake here, even if she does make it to the Olympics (which is far from certain). Other top athletes and possible Olympic contenders (such as basketball player Kenneth Faried) have same-sex parents. Many are gay or lesbian themselves. And crucially, Olympics aside, gay men and lesbians and their children living in Russia face daily fear of arrest and having their families torn apart.
Some are calling for a boycott of the Olympics; some argue that there are other actions we should take instead. I’ll leave that an open question for now. This is one more example, though, of how homophobia extends its tendrils around the world. Even as we act locally to create change, we must act globally as well. All Out is only one of the LGBT organizations following the happenings in Russia. They’re asking people to sign a petition calling on President Putin to repeal the anti-gay laws and protect all citizens from violence and discrimination. Let’s hope he feels himself on thin ice if he doesn’t.