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Russian anti-gay laws impact Olympics, vodka sales

Published July 29, 2013 2:27 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

New York • Russian vodka and the Winter Olympics in Sochi. For now, those are the prime targets as gays in the United States and elsewhere propose boycotts and other tactics to convey their outrage over Russia's intensifying campaign against gay-rights activism.

At many gay bars across North America, owners have joined a campaign to stop selling Russian vodka — notably the popular brand Stolichnaya. Activists also are pressing the International Olympic Committee and NBC, which holds U.S. broadcasting rights for Sochi, to be more aggressive in criticizing new Russian laws.

So far, there have been only scattered calls for a full-fledged boycott of the Sochi Games, but there is active discussion of how to convey gay-rights messages once the competition begins — including gestures by individual athletes and perhaps a gay-pride parade.

The chief flashpoint is a law signed by President Vladimir Putin last month that bans the "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations" and imposes hefty fines for providing information about the gay community to minors or holding gay pride rallies. Foreign citizens arrested under the law can be jailed for 15 days and then deported.

There also is concern about a long-running problem of violence against gays in Russia, as well as a new law restricting adoptions of Russian children by people in countries allowing same-sex marriage.

The new laws were approved by parliament with overwhelming support, reflecting animosity toward gay activism that is widely shared across the political spectrum in Russia.

Responding to the furor, the IOC said it has received assurances "from the highest level of government in Russia that the legislation will not affect those attending or taking part in the Games." It pledged to ensure there would be no discrimination against athletes, officials, spectators and the media in Sochi.