A top American distance runner dedicated the silver medal he won at the track and field World Championships in Moscow to his gay and lesbian friends, becoming the first athlete to openly defy Russia’s new anti-gay law that outlaws “homosexual propaganda.” Nick Symmonds won the silver medal in the 800-meters Tuesday, then broke a previous pledge to not speak out against the law while at the championships by telling a Russian news outlet that he had no choice but to say something.
“As much as I can speak out about it, I believe that all humans deserve equality as however God made them,” Symmonds told Russia’s R-Sport. “Whether you’re gay, straight, black, white, we all deserve the same rights. If there’s anything I can do to champion the cause and further it, I will, shy of getting arrested.”
“I respect Russians’ ability to govern their people,” he added. “I disagree with their laws. I do have respect for this nation. I disagree with their rules.”
Symmonds’ statement is the first major test of the Russian law by an international athlete and could possibly land him in trouble with Russian authorities, who have already deported foreign activists who have protested the law, including four Dutch filmmakers recording a documentary about the activism against it.
Here's hoping the athletes heading to Sochi follow Symmonds' lead. John over at Americablog rounds up all the Russia news in his daily "Russian Gay Olympic Implosion Update" here. I wanted to draw attention to this interview with Alistair Stewart, Assistant Director The Kaleidoscope Trust, "a UK based charity working to uphold the human rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people internationally." Stewart discusses the legal situation in Russia, what the IOC should do, why there won't be a boycott of the Olympics itself, and the vodka boycott:
What is your view on the vodka boycott?
We are supportive of the vodka boycott. I completely agree that by itself it won’t change the Russian laws and consumer boycotts have a problematic history at best. You also have to be careful when you’re trying to target companies that may ostensibly appear to be Russian but are actually transnational and operate in a number of different territories. Where the boycott has been incredibly successful is in raising the profile of the issue. If it hadn’t been called for it would be unlikely that we would be discussing the problems and unlikely that it would be appearing in national newspapers or that Obama would be talking about it on late night television.
The boycott is working.