Senator Takes Aim at Russia's Anti-LGBT Law

PHOTO: Protesters hold a demonstration against Russian anti-gay legislation and against Russian President Vladimir Putin stands on gay rights, in front of the Russian Consulate in New York, July 31, 2013.

Emmanuel Dunand/AFP, Getty Images

A U.S. senator is targeting Russia's controversial anti-LGBT propaganda law, over concerns that the measure will be enforced during the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi.

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) will introduce a resolution that calls on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to oppose the anti-LGBT law and demand that the Russian government guarantee that "athletes and spectators will not experience discrimination" based on sexual orientation or gender identity, according to Jamal Raad, a spokesman for the senator.

Merkley's resolution is part of a growing backlash against the law, which passed in June. It bans "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations," including gay pride rallies and speaking to people under 18 about homosexuality.

"Outrageous. Olympic discrimination against LGBT athletes and spectators is 100% unacceptable," Merkley tweeted Thursday.

Russia has sent mixed signals over whether the anti-LGBT law will apply to Olympic athletes and spectators. Punishment for foreign nationals could include time in prison, a $3,000 fine, and deportation, according to reports.

The IOC has said it has received assurances that that the law won't be enforced during the Games. But on Thursday, Russia's sports minister said the law would apply to Olympic athletes.

"An athlete of nontraditional sexual orientation isn't banned from coming to Sochi," Minister Vitaly Mutko said in an interview with Russian sports newswire R-Sport, according to the AP. "But if he goes out into the streets and starts to propagandize, then of course he will be held accountable."

That statement triggered further uproar against Russia from Western countries. On Friday, another Russian official suggested that the law will not be enforced on Olympic athletes and fans.

"The Olympic Games is a major international event. We need to be as polite and tolerant as possible," Igor Ananskikh, deputy chairman of the State Duma's Physical Culture, Sport, and Youth Policy Committee, told Russia's Interfax news agency. "That is why a decision has been made not to raise this issue during the Olympics."

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