An openly gay speed skater from New Zealand says that he will represent both his country and the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community at the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, next year if he is able to make the team. Blake Skjellerup plans to defy Russia’s recent ban of so-called "propaganda" supporting any "nontraditional sexual relations."
"I'm going to do my best to be in Russia," Skjellerup said. "If I'm stopped at the border, I'm stopped at the border. My presence there is going to be important for me and important for the community and I guess we're just going to have to wait and see." It has been reported that law allows for the deportation of foreign nationals for what is deemed to be homosexual propaganda.
The International Olympic Committee has already issued assurances that openly LGBT athletes will be safe in Sochi and that they will not be affected by the national law. However, Russian lawmaker Vitaly Milonov, who cosponsored the bill and is a member of the ruling United Russia Party, said that Russian officials do not have the power to suspend the ban during the games, The Advocate reported.
"If a law has been approved by the federal legislature and signed by the president, then the government has no right to suspend it," Milonov said. "It doesn't have the authority."
Russia’s sports minister, Vitaly Mutko, discussed the situation.
"An athlete of nontraditional sexual orientation isn't banned from coming to Sochi," he said. "But if he goes out into the streets and starts to propagandize, then of course he will be held accountable."
Skjellerup believes that his presence at the games would be very valuable.
"I and the other athletes have worked very, very hard and to have that taken away from you would be truly devastating," he said.