The Olympics begin in Russia as the LGBT community is silenced and suppressed in their country.
The United States has taken a stand by sending a delegation, which includes a host of openly gay representatives. Meanwhile, a host of gay community groups rightly condemn Vladimir Putin and the Russian Parliament for their laws and their lies. But there is another culprit too, the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
As the world media turns its spotlight on the homophobic practices of Russia, the IOC has remained too silent for too long. Instead of leading the charge against offensive policies endorsed and embraced by Russia, they have remained complacent and complicit. This is spineless.
While the very policies of the IOC support LGBT inclusion and acceptance, they correspondingly provide that the entity will not interfere with the laws of a host country. It's their excuse for their unacceptable silence. Instead, the IOC has said athletes may continue to speak out against the new Russian laws, which restrict the 'promotion' of homosexuality. They are apologists.
Following the path they took years ago in Mexico and again in China, the IOC is simply too timid to challenge human rights abuses. It's too bad, because threats to the LGBT communities in Russia are not hypothetical. They are very real.
Inside the country, anti gay violence seems to be increasing not helped at all by the strong Russian Orthodox Church, which supports the new laws. Worse still, once the games have past and the international spotlight is gone, the homophobic laws will still be present.
Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin has pledged to the world that gay and lesbian athletes and visitors in Sochi will feel at ease despite Russia's new "homosexual propaganda" ban. It is a vodka SFGN is not buying. Just last week, Russia announced they are setting up 'protest zones,' no closer than seven miles from any event. Out of sight, out of mind.
Ironically, Sochi was meant to showcase the strides Russia has made since the 1980 Summer Games in Moscow were boycotted by a host of Western nations because of the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan. The new laws against the LGBT community now casts a 21st century pall over the Sochi Olympics.
For inclusion and acceptance in an athletic world, the LGBT community can look to its own Olympics in Cleveland, Ohio, this summer. The Gay Games is the world's largest sporting and cultural event organized by, and specifically for, LGBT athletes, artists and musicians. Oh, we are not allowed to call them the Gay Olympics. We tried, but the IOC stopped us. They sued to protect the rights to their name, but that was years ago, in 1982 . Still, the IOC has never been our biggest fan.
Our duty as an LGBT newspaper is to fight for our rights. Well, what Russia is doing is wrong, and what the IOC is doing is not enough to criticize the injustice.
Meanwhile, no one is talking about Qatar either, where homosexual activity is punishable by a jail term. That wonderful little country hosts the next World Cup.
A number of movements supporting Russian LGBT people have recently launched in the United States. Singer Melissa Ethridge and a host of celebrities — including James Franco, Edward Norton and Madonna — launched Uprising of Love. The message is simple, really, though sometimes lost on Miami Beach or Wilton Drive. We are not done yet.
The LGBT community may play games in Cleveland in August, but it has a world of rights still to fight for in the years ahead. Become part of an Olympic team yourself.
Let your life become a force for human rights. If we are going to keep an Olympic flame going, let's make sure it lights the path towards universal equality and singes anyone who stands in our way.