(619) 505-7777

Obama blasts Russia's anti-gay law | VIDEO

WASHINGTON – President Obama condemned a new Russian law that criminalizes any public support for LGBT people, and expressed concern about how it might be applied to the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

Obama made his strongest statements to date about the deteriorating relations with Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin, during his appearance Tuesday on NBC’s “The Tonight Show” with Jay Leno. The President is visiting Camp Pendleton in San Diego's North County during his California visit.

America’s President said Russia’s so-called “gay propaganda” law violates “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.”

Still, Obama opined that Russia doesn’t want international controversy.

“You know, I think Putin and Russia have a big stake in making sure that the Olympics work, and I think that they understand that for most of the countries that participate in the Olympics, we wouldn’t tolerate gays and lesbians being treated differently,” Obama told Leno. “They are athletes. They are there to compete. And if Russia wants to uphold the Olympic spirit, then every judgment should be made on the track or in the swimming pool or the balance beam and people’s sexual orientation shouldn’t have anything to do with it.”

Putin signed the bill into law earlier this summer, putting LGBT Russians and their supporters in harm’s way. Dozens of acts of anti-gay violence have occurred, including several that resulted in death. Since then, worldwide protests have erupted against Russia and its homophobic law, including a boycott of Russian vodka.

“At the very least, this heinous law denies LGBT people in Russia the slightest shred of dignity and humanity,” said Chad Griffin, Human Rights Campaign (HRC) president. “But as we’ve seen in the news, people’s lives are at stake thanks to this state-sanctioned homophobia and transphobia that reaches the highest levels of Russian government. President Obama is right to be concerned as the Olympic Games in Sochi draw near – not just for Americans traveling to Russia, but for those who must endure the law long after the last medal is won.”

In June, a law banning "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations" was passed by Russia’s Federal Assembly and signed into law. Under the guise of protecting children from "homosexual propaganda," the law imposes fines or jail time to anyone – Russians and foreign visitors - who disseminate information that may cause a "distorted understanding" that LGBT and heterosexual relationships are "socially equivalent." The fines are significantly higher if such information is distributed through the media or Internet.

Foreigners, such as those visiting Russia for the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games, Feb. 7-23, could not only be fined but also face arrest and up to 15 days in jail, followed by eventual deportation, according to the new law. The Russians have provided conflicting statements on whether the new law would be suspended for the Olympics.

HRC’s Griffin wrote to NBCUniversal executives, asking the network to use its exclusive coverage of the 2014 Olympic Games to expose this heinous law. He also called on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) not to be credulous, after the organization announced it had received promises that foreigners would not be subject to the law during the Sochi Games:

“Mere verbal assurances from the Russian government that foreigners will be exempt from their repressive laws are not enough,” Griffin said. “The IOC must obtain ironclad written assurance from President Putin. But more importantly, they should be advocating for the safety of all LGBT people in Russia, not simply those visiting for the Olympics. Rescinding this heinous law must be our collective goal.”

On Wednesday, the IAAF followed the IOC in calling for Russia to reconsider its views on LGBT people, but both international sports organizations said they did not want to wade into the political arena.

According to ESPN:

IAAF deputy general secretary Nick Davies said it would be good for the Russian government to see people with "alternative lifestyles, and this may serve as an impetus for them to reconsider their views instead of just living in an isolated society."

At the same time, Davies insisted the world championships should take on the credo of the Olympics and not raise political issues during their events. The track worlds start in Moscow on Saturday.

Davies said in a statement that, as an international organization, "we have to respect the laws of the land," whether it likes the laws or not.
"The IAAF cannot control or modify this," Davies said.

He did insist that the IAAF's charter is clearly opposed to any discrimination against sex, religion or gender.

"It is simply not a problem in our sport," Davies said.