Russian President Vladimir Putin has assured the public that there will not be any discrimination against gays at the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, after months of speculation and controversy surrounding the country’s new ban on “gay propaganda.”
“We don’t have any laws pointed against persons with a non-traditional sexual orientation here in Russia,” Putin told Channel One television on Wednesday. “Russia has adopted a law that prohibits the propaganda of unconventional sex relations among minors, which is a completely different case.”
LGBT groups have called for a boycott of the Games. During the Moscow qualifying competitions last month, several athletes made it known that they do not approve of Russia’s ban on gay propaganda — which applies to anything that can be seen as luring minors towards the gay lifestyle.
“I can assure you that during the Olympics or any other major sports events, Russia will strictly stick to the Olympic principles which forbid any kind of discrimination of people on any basis,” Putin said.
Putin says the law is meant to address the growing gay demographic in Russia.
“The people who initiated the enactment of this bill acted on the premise that the same-sex marriages cannot produce children,” Putin said. “Meanwhile, Russia is experiencing certain demographic problems and we’re interested to have more traditional families and more children.”
A 24-year-old who staged a one-man protest in July was arrested on Sep. 1 and charged with gay propaganda. In Kazan, Russia, Dmitry Isakov held a sign, “Being gay and loving gays is normal. Beating gays and killing gays is a crime!” Images of that protest appeared online and prosecutors are using that to charge him, according to Buzzfeed.
Russia’s preparation for the 2014 Winter Olympics have cost around $6.5 billion. Even more funding was pumped into the development of Russia’s southern region to make it a place for tourists.
“We did it deliberately to make the southern part of the Russian Federation a more attractive and comfortable place not only during the Olympic Games but for the decades after it,” Putin said.