This week the Winter Olympics in Sochi kicks off. This year’s event has been fraught with controversy surrounding the anti-gay climate in Russia. So much has happened that’s been hard to keep track of so below is a timeline of events that all started with Russia passing an anti-gay propaganda law back in June, which banned, among other activities, public discussion of gay rights.
June 30, 2013 – Russia passes an anti-gay propaganda law, which bans the public discussion of gay rights and relationships anywhere children might hear or see it. Those found in breach of it can be fined and, if they are foreign, deported. President Vladimir Putin is an enthusiastic supporter.
August 3, 2013 - The U.S. worries that gay American athletes or fans could be arrested, fined and deported. The Russian law says that it is a crime to publicly acknowledge that you are gay, provide information on homosexuality to minors, or publicly support equal rights for gays. The International Olympic Committee releases a statement that is 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."
August 5, 2013 - Eighty-three members of Congress ask U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to take steps to ensure the safety of gay American athletes" in a letter by Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY).
August 7, 2013 - A gay rights petition with 320,000 signatures is presented to Olympic heads in Switzerland over Russia's anti-gay propaganda laws.
August 8, 2013 - Russian Sports Minister Vitali Mutko states, "The law is not intended to limit or violate the rights of citizens of any country, any religion, any preferences. the law is against propaganda among the underage...I was in Sochi yesterday and all the athletes and organizations should be relaxed, their rights will be protected."
August 9, 2013 - President Barack Obama rejects calls to boycott the 2014 Winter Olympics unless the law is repealed, saying it would hurt American athletes who have trained and sacrificed to make it to the Olympics, saying "If Russia doesn't have gay or lesbian athletes, then that would probably make their team weaker."
August 12, 2013 - Russia's interior ministry confirms anti-gay law will be enforced at Olympics.
August 21, 2013 - A gay reporter, James Kirchick, is kicked off a Russian television news broadcast after he vocally protests the country's anti-gay laws during the middle of a segment. Kirchick is a foreign correspondent, who has written for The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. He was invited as a guest on Russia's RT network to discuss the Bradley Manning sentencing. Instead he chose to use the platform to challenge Russia's anti-gay laws.
September 28, 2013 - The IOC says that Russia has not violated the Olympic Charter with their anti-gay law.
December 10, 2013 - German President Joachim Gauck announces he will not attend the Olympics. This makes him the first major political figure to boycott the games.
December 17, 2013 – The U.S. delegation to the Olympics doesn’t include the President, Vice President or First Lady. Some of the former Olympians asked to represent the U.S. are gay, which include tennis player Billie Jean King and ice hockey player Caitlin Cahow.
December 19, 2013 – A third Olympian apart of theU.S. delegation to the Olympics, figure skater Brian Boitano, comes out of the closet saying "I am many things: a son, a brother, and uncle, a friend, an athlete, a cook, an author, and being gay is just one part of who I am.”
January 7, 2014 — Bob Costas says NBC's Olympics broadcast won't ignore Russia's anti-gay laws after some people suggested that he would avoid discussion of the widely condemned law banning gay "propaganda” because of previous statements he had made.
January 10, 2014 — State Department issues travel alert for gays during Olympics.
January 15, 2014 — Italian IOC official accuses U.S. of politicizing Olympics by sending gay athletes saying “It's absurd that a country like that sends four lesbians to Russia just to demonstrate that in their country gay rights have [been established]. The games should not be an occasion and a stage to promote rights that sports support daily.”
January 17, 2014 — President Putin tries to calm the furor surrounding his country’s anti-gay views by saying gays are welcome if they ‘leave kids alone' which only enflames the controversy.
January 27, 2014 – Sochi Mayor Anatoly Pakhomov tells a BBC reporter gay visitors are welcome as long as they do not "impose their habits on others” and that there are "no gays" living in his city.
January 31, 2014 – News reports circulate that Lena Klimova, journalist in Nizhny Tagil, will soon face trial for gay propaganda charges for founding and running an online community called Children-404, which was created on Facebook and the Russian social network vk.com as a community for Russian LGBT teenagers. The site posts letters from LGBT teens, including coming out stories.
*Some of this information was compiled from SFGN Media partner CNN