US: NBC reassures gay and lesbian employees of safety during Winter Olympics

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

US television network NBC has attempted to reassure its gay and lesbian employees who may work during the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, that they will be kept safe despite the passage of anti-gay laws.

The network said in a memo that finds the anti-gay legislation, and prejudices it may represent to be “deeply troubling and diametrically opposed to everything that the Olympics symbolize,” reports the Associated Press.

Craig Robinson, NBC Universal’s executive vice president and chief diversity officer, sent the memo on Thursday to all company employees who have told the company that they are gay or lesbian.

NBC and its cable partners will cover the event, but it has not been confirmed how many employees will be sent by the company.

In the memo, Robinson wrote that “your security is paramount and we will do everything possible to protect the rights, safety and well-being of our employees.”

He continued to say that the Russian law violates the International Olympic Committee’s chater, and said that sport should be a human right, and all people should be allowed to practice without fear of discrimination.

“The spirit of the Olympic Games is about unifying people and countries through the celebration of sport and it is our very strong hope that spirit prevails,” he wrote. “Until then, we have and will continue to cover these human rights violations on our broadcast and cable news networks as the story continues to evolve.”

President Vladimir Putin signed the law in June banning the promotion of “non-traditional relationships” toward minors, a move that has been criticised as part of a broader crackdown on Russia’s gay community. Other laws banning the adoption of Russian children by foreign same-sex couples, and one which enables organisations receiving funding from abroad to be fined as “foreign agents”, were also passed.

Conservative MP Mike Freer yesterday told PinkNews he was appalled by the Russian Government’s stance on gay equality and that he would like the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to consider moving the 2014 Winter Olympics from Russia.

On Wednesday, author and television presenter Stephen Fry wrote an open letter to David Cameron, International Olympics Committee President Jacques Rogge and Lord Coe, urging for the 2014 Winter Olympics to not take place in Sochi.

In a statement, the IOC said it “respected Mr Fry’s opinion” and the committee was clear that “sport is a human right and should be available to all regardless of race, sex or sexual orientation”.

On Thursday, the Shadow Foreign and Commonwealth Minister for Human Rights, Kerry McCarthy, told PinkNews that the UK Government needed to use next month’s G20 meeting in St Petersburg to raise the issue of gay rights with Russia.

Last week, the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) told that it was alarmed by the “growing restrictions on LGBT freedoms in Russia”.

A UK Government source also said that they anticipated the issue of homophobic oppression in Russia would be raised at the G20 Heads of Government meeting.

With international interest on the LGBT situation in Russia at an unprecedented level – on Thursday PinkNews published a collection of the most shocking LGBT stories to have come from the country in the past seven years.