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© RIA Novosti. Mihail Mokrushin

Gay couples have nothing to fear at Olympics - lawmaker

by Anna Arutunyan at 02/08/2013 17:40

This article contains information not suitable for readers younger than 18 years of age, according to Russian legislation.

A foreign gay couple visiting Russia for the 2014 Olympic Games will not get in trouble with the law for holding hands in public, a senior lawmaker has said in wake of heated debates about a Russian law banning so-called gay propaganda among minors.

“There should not be any sanctions against athletes of a non-traditional sexual orientation,” Igor Ananskikh, Chairman of the State Duma Committee on Physical Fitness, Sports, and Youth Affairs told The Moscow News on Friday.

“The law is about propaganda. If they come out and are holding banners, then of course that’s propaganda. Holding handing is not propaganda.”

Ananskikh said that someone who is gay has nothing to fear from the law if he doesn’t plan on holding rallies.

His remarks came amid contradictory signals from Russia’s government on whether the law – which prohibits the propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations among minors – would apply to the Olympics, which would see thousands of foreigners and tourists flock to Russia’s resort town of Sochi in February.

The law, signed by President Vladimir Putin last month, sparked international calls among LGBT groups to boycott the Russian vodka and other products in retaliation for the law. A U.S. lawmaker, meanwhile, has condemned the rule as “hateful” and appealed to Russian authorities.

“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,” RIA Novosti quoted U.S. Sen. Edward Markey as saying in a letter to Russia’s Ambassador to the United States, Sergei Kislyak.

Earlier, the International Olympic Committee 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."

But Russia’s Sports Minister Vitaly Mutkov said on Thursday that the law against promoting homosexuality would be applied to everyone.

"No one is forbidding an athlete with non-traditional sexual orientation from coming to Sochi, but if he goes onto the street and starts propagandizing it, then of course he will be held accountable," Mutko was quoted by R-Sport as saying.

But the IOC countered that it was unmoved by Mutko’s remarks. According to R-Sport, the official who gave the IOC these assurances is believed to outrank Mutko.

“For the time being, we rest with the assurances we have … that this law will not affect either athletes, officials or spectators,” spokesman Andrew Mitchell was quoted by R-Sport as saying.  in an emailed statement.

Speaking to Russian media on Friday, Ananskikh explained that authorities were aiming for “tolerance. That is why it has been decided that this issue will not be raised during the Olympic Games.

Asked to clarify, however, Ananskikh told The Moscow News that the law would apply to everybody, reiterating Mutko’s statement.



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