“Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin, has declared war on homosexuals,” actor and playwright Harvey Fierstein wrote in a scathing op-ed for The New York Times Sunday. ”So far, the world has mostly been silent.”
Fierstein, a longtime advocate for LGBT issues, is trying to draw attention to Russia’s restrictive new policies toward homosexuals. Among these policies is a law signed by Putin on July 3rd which bans the adoption of Russian-born children by homosexuals. The law also restricts foreign families from adopting Russian children if they live in a country where marriage equality exists at all.
On June 30th, Putin signed a law that allows Russian authorities to detain tourists or foreign nationals who are gay or pro-gay for up to 14 days. This law is particularly significant for the effect it could have on the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. Could gay or pro-gay athletes and spectators be subject to arrest if they attend the Olympic ceremonies?
In a statement released on July 17th to the Windy City Times, the International Olympic Committee addressed the issue.
“The International Olympic Committee is clear that sport is a human right and should be available to all regardless of race, sex or sexual orientation,” said the statement. “The Games themselves should be open to all, free of discrimination, and that applies to spectators, officials, media and of course athletes. We would oppose in the strongest terms any move that would jeopardize this principle.”
Fierstein is more forceful in his op-ed: “The Olympic Committee must demand the retraction of these laws under threat of boycott.”
Earlier in June, Putin signed a bill which classifies “homosexual propaganda” as pornography, putting anyone at risk of fines or arrest who so much as tells another that homosexuality is normal. Finally, Fierstein notes a final law, rumored to be on its way to passage, that could facilitate the removal of children from the homes of homosexual parents, adopted or biological.
Fierstein sees these new laws as a way for Putin to gin up support from his base, while distracting from the failure of other policies.
“Mr. Putin’s campaign against lesbian, gay and bisexual people is one of distraction, a strategy of demonizing a minority for political gain taken straight from the Nazi playbook,” Fierstein writes. “Can we allow this war against human rights to go unanswered? Although Mr. Putin may think he can control his creation, history proves he cannot: his condemnations are permission to commit violence against gays and lesbians.”
This kind of violence has already occurred. In May, a young man was beaten to death in city of Volgograd and dumped in a courtyard. A suspect told police that the attack happened because the young man was gay.
Fierstein says the 2014 Olympic Games is a perfect time to put pressure on Russian government for these laws, and warns against looking the other way.
“In 1936 the world attended the Olympics in Germany,” he wrote. “Few participants said a word about Hitler’s campaign against the Jews. Supporters of that decision point proudly to the triumph of Jesse Owens, while I point with dread to the Holocaust and world war. There is a price for tolerating intolerance.”