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Anti-Gay Laws Prompt Calls to Boycott Olympics and Vodka

Published: July 31, 2013 (Issue # 1770)



  • Gay couples kissing at the State Duma building in protest against the anti-gay bill, which was approved last month and has sparked outrage around the world.
    Photo: Igor Tabakov / SPT

NEW YORK (AP) — Russian vodka and the Winter Olympics in Sochi. For now, those are the prime targets as gays in the United States and elsewhere propose boycotts and other tactics to convey their outrage over Russia's intensifying campaign against gay-rights activism.

At many gay bars across North America, owners have joined a campaign to stop selling Russian vodka — notably the popular brand Stolichnaya. Activists also are pressing the International Olympic Committee and NBC, which holds U.S. broadcasting rights for Sochi, to be more aggressive in criticizing new Russian laws.

So far, there have been only scattered calls for a full-fledged boycott of the Sochi Games, but there is active discussion of how to convey gay-rights messages once the competition begins — including gestures by individual athletes and perhaps a gay-pride parade.

The chief flashpoint is a law signed by President Vladimir Putin last month that bans the "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations" and imposes hefty fines for providing information about the gay community to minors or holding gay pride rallies. Foreign citizens arrested under the law can be jailed for 15 days and then deported.

There also is concern about a long-running problem of violence against gays in Russia, as well as a new law restricting adoptions of Russian children by people in countries allowing same-sex marriage.

The new laws were approved by parliament with overwhelming support, reflecting animosity toward gay activism that is widely shared across the political spectrum in Russia.

Responding to the furor, the IOC said it 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." It pledged to ensure there would be no discrimination against athletes, officials, spectators and the media in Sochi.

However, the Human Rights Campaign, a leading U.S. gay-rights group, said the IOC should take a stronger stand.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Sunday, Oct. 26


Zenit St. Petersburg returns home for the first time in nearly a month as they host Mordovia Saransk in a Russian Premier League game. Currently at the top of the league thanks to their undefeated start to the season, the northern club hopes to extend the gap between them and second-place CSKA Moscow and win the title for the first time in three years. Tickets are available at the stadium box office or on the club’s website.



Monday, Oct. 27


Today marks the end of the art exhibit “Neophobia” at the Erarta Museum. Artists Alexey Semichov and Andrei Kuzmin took a neo-modernist approach to represent the array of fears that are ever-present throughout our lives. Tickets are 200 rubles ($4.90).



Tuesday, Oct. 28


The Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel plays host to SPIBA’s Marketing and Communications Committee’s round table discussion on “Government Relations Practices in Russia” this morning. The discussion starts at 9:30 a.m. and participation must be confirmed by Oct. 24.



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