Lawmaker seeks answers from Russian Ambassador
Washington (July 31, 2013) - In the leadup to the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Senator Edward J. Markey (DMass.), a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, sent a letter to the Russian Ambassador to the United States expressing outrage and deep concern with Russia's new LGBT 'Propaganda' law. The law criminalizes all forms of public expression of support for LGBT equality. Without modification to the law, thousands of Americans visiting Russia this winter, including those attending the 2014 winter games, may be vulnerable to fines, arrest, deportation, and other forms of discrimination. In particular, Senator Markey expressed concern with the provision of the law that allows for the possible detention of foreign citizens and legal permanent residents for up to 14 days before they could/would be expelled from the country.
"Under the new law, the mere act of publically acknowledging one's sexuality or displaying rainbow flags could be deemed punishable offenses under the statute. Such a law is clearly inconsistent with, and contradictory to, the International Olympic Committee's Charter," writes Senator Markey to Russian Ambassador Sergey I. Kislyak. "Many members of international athletic delegations, their families, spectators, and support staff proudly identify as members of the LGBT community. I believe it is essential for them to both feel and be safe from arrest, detention, and other forms of discrimination while in Russia."
The full text of the letter can be found below.
July 30, 2013
His Excellency Sergey I. Kislyak
Ambassador of Russia to the United States
Embassy of Russia
2650 Wisconsin Ave., N.W.
Washington, DC 20007
Dear Ambassador Kislyak:
I write to you out of concern over the Russian Federation's recent adoption of a law targeting Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) individuals. As you know, legislation signed into law on June 30, 2013 grants Russian law enforcement the authority to arrest LGBT individuals and allies for promoting equality. Specifically, the law states that it is "illegal to spread information about nontraditional sexual behavior" to minors. While I strongly oppose the existence of such a discriminatory statute that singles out one group of individuals because of their sexual orientation, several of the law's provisions are so vague and loosely defined that they could jeopardize the safety of the thousands of American athletes, spectators, and support staff who will be visiting Russia next year as part of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi.
It is my understanding that under the new law, the mere act of publically acknowledging one's sexuality or displaying rainbow flags could be deemed punishable offenses. Such a law is clearly inconsistent with, and contradictory to, the International Olympic Committee's Charter, which states, in pertinent part, that, "Any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement." (Olympic Charter, Page 11)
I am especially concerned with the provision of the law that allows for the possible detention of foreign citizens for up to 14 days before they would be expelled from the country. Many members of international athletic delegations, their families, spectators, and support staff proudly identify as members of the LGBT community. I believe it is essential for them to both feel and be safe from arrest, detention, and other forms of discrimination while in Russia.
The International Olympic Committee recently announced that it has received verbal assurances from the Russian Government that the new law would not be enforced against foreigners during the Sochi Olympics. This is welcome development. However, the recent arrest of four Dutch tourists for violating the new law reinforces the need for clear, written assurances from the Russian government that the law will not be enforced against both foreign citizens and legal permanent residents, especially during the Sochi Olympics.
Throughout the history of relations between our two nations, spirited athletic competition has consistently played a significant role in building connections between the Russian and American people. I am looking forward to an exciting and competitive Sochi Games, and I am optimistic that our nations' mutual respect and love for the Olympics will help resolve these issues before the Games. I look forward to hearing from you regarding what actions the Russian government plans to take to counter the recently enacted laws that criminalize LGBT people and their allies for speaking out in support of equality and how we can be assured that American athletes or American tourists who wish to attend the Sochi Games do not face arrest or detention because of their sexual orientation or their support of equality.
Edward J. Markey
United States Senator