United States Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) called “outrageous” the news that Russia plans to arrest gay, and gay-friendly, Olympic athletes and visitors during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
Merkley was responding to an earlier report in the Russian state-owned media that the country’s Sports Minister, Vitaly Mutko, had said that Olympic athletes and guests who act in a pro-gay manner during the games will be arrested under Russia’s new draconian anti-gay “propaganda” law.
In his tweet, which forwarded a copy of an earlier Buzzfeed story about the Russian Minister’s threat, Senator Merkley wrote:
“Outrageous. Olympic discrimination against LGBT athletes and spectators is 100% unacceptable.”
Merkley’s comments add fuel to an already volatile situation in which, by the hour, the safety of Olympic athletes and spectators is being increasingly questioned by human rights groups, politicians, and members of the Russian government itself. Russia has become increasingly dangerous for gay and trans people following the government ramping up its official pogrom against the minority.
Earlier today, a spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, America’s largest gay rights group, said that the Russians have now made clear that gay athletes will be in “harm’s way” if they attend the Olympic games in Sochi.
“The opinion of the Russian government is now perfectly clear: if you’re gay and you come to Russia for the Olympics, you will be in harm’s way.”
Under Russia’s draconian new anti-gay law, you can be arrested for something as simple as pro-gay speech, or even wearing an article a clothing that suggests you have pro-gay sympathies. Last year in Russia, someone was arrested under a similar regional law for wearing rainbow suspenders.
Of particular concern now is the safety of New Zealand Olympic speedskater Blake Skjellerup, who indicated that he would wear a rainbow pin while competing in the 2014 Olympic games in Sochi. According to the Russian Sports Minister today, Skjellerup, who is openly gay, will be arrested on arriving in Sochi.