Washington, DC- Today, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), a member of the National Security Working Group, sent a letter to Russian President, Vladimir Putin, calling on him to protect LGBT athletes and guests at the upcoming Sochi Olympic games in 2014. Russia recently passed legislation that criminalizes mere discussion of LGBT rights and punishes anyone who openly acknowledges their orientation or gender identity. Russian Sports Minister, Vitaly Mutko, has also said that the law would be enforced at the game. With the Russian government sending mixed signals on the law’s impact on the Olympic games, Senator Casey has called on President Putin to make clear that LGBT Olympians and guests will not be prosecuted at the Olympic games for who they are.
“Russia’s discriminatory law has no place being enforced at the 2014 Olympic games,” Senator Casey said. “Athletes from around the world should be able to go to Sochi with the peace of mind in knowing that they won’t be prosecuted simply because of who they are.”
The full text of Senator Casey’s letter can be seen below:
Dear President Putin,
I am writing to respectfully express my concern regarding the safety of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) athletes and others attending the 2014 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games in Sochi, Russia, as well as to encourage you to take all necessary precautions to ensure their security.
I am troubled by Government of Russia’s recent passage of legislation criminalizing public discussion of LGBT rights, including displays of support and open acknowledgment of one’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Reports suggest that this legislation was enacted amidst widespread harassment and physical violence against LGBT individuals in Russia. I share the concern of many of my colleagues and others in the international community about the effect of this legislation, and the anti-LGBT sentiment it stems from on those individuals traveling to Sochi for the 2014 Olympics.
I am encouraged by the August 2nd announcement by Igor Ananskikh, deputy chairman of the State Duma’s Physical Culture, Sport and Youth Policy Committee that the legislation would not be enforced against athletes and guests attending the Olympics. However, given previous reported statements by Russian Federation Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko that athletes and guests would be subject to prosecution under the legislation, I respectfully ask you to make a commitment that the legislation will not be enforced during the Olympics. In addition, I urge you to use all tools at your disposal to ensure the safety of those traveling to the Sochi Olympics from other forms of discrimination or persecution.
The Olympics provide a rare opportunity for citizens of many nations to come together in a tradition of peaceful competition and celebration of athletic achievement. This spirit is undermined by the possibility that Olympic athletes or spectators who have traveled to take part in the Olympics and display pride in their nations would be subject to persecution for no reason other than their sexual orientation or gender identity.
All governments should work to protect their citizens’ fundamental freedoms. This legislation not only threatens athletes and guests attending the Olympics, but is a constant threat to the safety and liberty of LGBT individuals living in Russia. I strongly urge you to prioritize values central to the Constitution of the Russian Federation and shared by the United States, including freedom from harassment and promotion of individual liberties. To that end, I urge you to support efforts to overturn the recently enacted legislation and work to ensure safety and equality for LGBT citizens as well as international guests.
Robert P. Casey, Jr.
United States Senator