Tuesday, July 30, 2013
Gay rights in Sochi: good intentions meet a bad idea
It wouldn't be the Olympics without a cause celebre, and the mouvement du jour ahead of the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi is gay rights.
LGBT groups are clamoring for an Olympic boycott because of Russia's official ban against what the state defines as homosexual propaganda, including gay pride events and public demonstrations of affection between same sex couples. On the scale of human rights abuses, it doesn't compare to Chinese-occupied Tibet, yet the 2008 Beijing Games were boycott-free, in part because of the lessons learned from 1980, when the western boycott of the Summer Olympics in Moscow had no discernible effect on the Soviet invasion and occupation of Afghanistan and only served to provoke Eastern Bloc countries to snub the 1984 Games in Los Angeles.
Beyond the futility of a boycott, there's this: gay rights have evolved into a political issue in North America, but in many parts of the world it's still a moral issue, and it's no one's place to impose their moral standards on someone else's culture. Russia's anti-gay legislation is repressive by North American standards, but the law has support across the political spectrum in Russia - and it's the law, enacted by members of a supposedly democratically-elected parliament.
Russia will evolve at its own pace. It always has, and always will. In the meantime, calls to boycott all things Russian from vodka to nesting dolls to Olympic Games because Bill can't hold Bob's hand at the Olympic Village in Sochi are as dubious as they are impractical.