Russia defends anti-gay law in open letter to International Olympic Committee

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The International Olympic Committee (IOC) today received a letter from the Russian Government defending an anti-gay law introduced in the country in June, saying it will remain in place during the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics, but also saying gay people will not be discriminated against at the games.

The open letter from Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak outlines that Russia shall uphold the Olympic Charter and completely fulfil the obligations it has signed up to.

However the letter then goes onto say that the June law prohibiting the positive promotion of “non traditional” relationships shall remain in place and argues that they are not discriminatory. The letter states that: “These legislations apply equally to all persons, irrespective of their race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation, and cannot be regarded as discrimination based on sexual orientation,”

The letter does not explain whether athletes or fans wearing gay rights symbols will be subject to the law, those convicted can face up to 14 days in prison and a fine..

In a statement after receiving the letter, IOC President Jacques Rogge said that Russia had provided “strong reassurances that everyone will be welcome at the games in Sochi regardless of their sexual orientation.”

The IOC has guaranteed that no one shall face discrimination on the basis of their sexual orientation, but in the wake of Sweden’s Emma Green Tregaro’s protest against the anti-gay laws at the World Athletics Championships last week the IOC have reiterated that political protests are not permitted in sports venues.

Russia’s interior minister last week confirmed that the anti-gay laws shall be enforced during the Sochi Games next year despite reassurances given by President Putin that the new laws will not interfere with the Games.

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.

The laws have so far sparked controversy among LGBT activists, with some calling for a boycott of the 2014 Games. Others have also called to boycott Russian vodka as a form of protest.