Responding to Russia’s recent anti-gay crackdown, many LGBT activists throughout South Florida and the United States are calling for boycotts and protests of the upcoming Winter Olympics, Stoli vodka and Russian caviar.
“You’ve got to go economic,” said Fort Lauderdale activist Nate Klarfeld, former board chairman of the Stonewall National Museum & Archives. “The Olympics has turned into a business. Billions are paid for sponsorships. If NBC doesn’t cover the Olympics, then Russia loses all its cachet. And when this all started, I said it’s a no-brainer. We should just pour all the Stoli down the sewers.”
Russia’s Parliament in June passed a bill banning "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations." President Vladimir Putin quickly signed the law and shortly after approved a bill that sharply limits the adoption of Russian children by people from countries allowing gay marriage.
Four Dutch activists filming a gay-rights documentary were arrested Monday in Murmansk, Russia. Midweek, six LGBT activists were arrested in Moscow "officially charged on the basis of the federal law banning propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations to minors,” Russian gay activist Nikolai Alekseev reported on Facebook.
On Friday, Canada issued a travel alert for gay visitors to Russia: “Although homosexual activity is not illegal in Russia, a federal law has been passed that prohibits public actions that are described as promoting homosexuality and ‘non-traditional sexual relations.’ This law could render any homosexual and pro-homosexual statements punishable. Public actions (including dissemination of information, statements, displays or conspicuous behaviour) that contravene or appear to contravene this law may lead to arrest, the imposition of a fine and deportation.”
Later, the International Olympic Committee said the Russian government had assured that no visitors during the games would be prosecuted under the new law.
“Mere verbal assurances from the Russian government that foreigners will be exempt from their repressive laws are not enough,” said Chad Griffin, president of Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest gay-rights organization. “The IOC must obtain ironclad written assurance from President Putin. But more importantly, they should be advocating for the safety of all LGBT people in Russia, not simply those visiting for the Olympics. Rescinding this heinous law must be our collective goal.”
Earlier this week, national gay columnist Dan Savage made a case in his Slog blog for Russian boycotts.
“These anti-gay laws come after years of escalating attacks on gay pride events and LGBT people in Moscow and St. Petersburg," Savage wrote. "Moscow’s city government has banned pride parades for 100 years; in St. Petersburg a small group of LGBT-rights demonstrators was attacked by a violent mob earlier this summer. These attacks are not new and they’re getting worse. Gay and lesbian Russians living in the United States are calling for a boycott of the 2014 Winter Games, which are taking place in the Russian city of Sochi.”
Tony-winning playwright Harvey Fierstein ( Torch Song Trilogy, La Cage aux Folles, Hairspray and the current Kinky Boots) also supports an Olympics boycott.