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Homosexual crackdown in Russia now extending to Olympic athletes

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
August 1st, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

In an even wider crackdown in Russia over expressions of homosexuality, gay athletes and fans will be prohibited from displays of affection and the wearing of pro-homosexual rainbow pins and badges during the 2014 Olympics. Violators face steep fines and jail time, foreigners will face similar penalties plus deportation.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - It is currently illegal to even speak about homosexuality around minors, much less openly display gay pride. The Russian ban is against "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations" around minors.

Where does this leave gay athletes and sports fans, as well as any vocal supporters or protestors, when Russia hosts the Winter Olympics next year in Sochi?

St. Petersburg lawmaker Vitaly Milonov sponsored the legislation last year. The law became the template for a national edict signed by President Vladimir Putin last month.

"If a law has been approved by the federal legislature and signed by the president, then the government has no right to suspend it. It doesn't have the authority," he Milonov said, stressing that he has not heard anything different from Russian officials.

While Milonov is only a regional lawmaker and is not a member of the federal government or the national legislature, he has been at the forefront of Russia's war on homosexuality. He threatened to fine pop star Madonna last summer for violating the law after she spoke out against it from the stage during a concert in St. Petersburg.

The International Olympic Committee says they are cautiously optimistic that the games will be safe for gay athletes and fans, noting that it has sought assurances from Russian authorities.

"This legislation has just been passed into law and it remains to be seen whether and how it will be implemented, particularly as regards the Games in Sochi," the IOC said in an emailed statement to ABC News.

"The IOC has received assurances from the highest level of government in Russia that the legislation will not affect those attending or taking part in the Games," the statement continued.

In response, the U.S. Olympic committee recently sent a letter to American athletes warning them about the law, saying, "We do not know how and to what extent they will be enforced during the Olympic and Paralympic Games."

The USOC says they are doing their utmost to protect the safety of all Americans at the Games.

"We are aware of these laws and are engaged in active discussions with the International Olympic Committee and the US State Department about how we can ensure that every American in Sochi, especially our athletes, are safe and secure," the letter continues.

Openly gay New Zealand speed skater Blake Skjellerup has already pledged to wear a rainbow pin during the games.

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