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social sciences

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In a series of interviews with young homosexuals, the Guardian found that because of widespread fear their relationships are nearly always clandestine and abuse is commonplace. In addition to vigilante violence, they fear negative reactions from family and friends. In the Russian provinces, homosexuality is the love that dare not even whisper its name.

Yuri Ageshchev, the coordinator of the Union of Orthodox Brotherhoods, which has been responsible for violent attacks on participants in glbtq rallies, had the temerity to claim, "We're a peaceful people, but we will stand tall to defend our children adequately."

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Putin has also used the welfare of children and families as a rationale for other anti-gay laws, including one that forbids the adoption of Russian children by anyone in countries with marriage equality. He also favors a law calling for the removal of Russian children from their own homes if their parents are deemed to be gay or lesbian.

Tellingly, anti-gay extremists from the United States have been welcomed in Russia as parliamentarians consider anti-gay laws. Among them are Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage and Scott Lively of Mass Resistance. The fraudulent study by sociologist Mark Regnerus that alleges that children of same-sex parents do less well than children of heterosexual parents has also been cited by defenders of the anti-gay laws.

Sochi Olympics

When Sochi was selected as the host city of the 2014 Winter Games, defeating bids from Salzburg, Austria, and Pyeongchang, South Korea, Russia was granted the right to host an Olympics for the first time since the 1980 Summer Olympics were held in Moscow. The 1980s Olympics were boycotted by the United States and some of its allies because of the Soviet Union's invasion of Afghanistan. The Sochi Olympics would be an opportunity, it was thought, to exhibit the progress of the Russian people toward a more open and democratic society.

In fact, however, the Sochi Olympics have so far only highlighted the homophobia of the Russian Federation.

Since the federal law prohibiting "gay propaganda" applies to foreigners as well as to Russians, after its passage there was immediate concern in the glbtq and ally communities about the safety of queer athletes and sports fans at the Sochi Games. This concern was heightened by the fact that Russian officials had unceremoniously rejected the application to establish a Pride House at the Olympics.

Moreover, with news of the escalating violence and brutal oppression directed toward glbtq citizen in Russia, the prospect of the Sochi Olympics became increasingly unappealing to many Westerners. Not only were they concerned about the safety of tourists at the Games, but they recognized that the Sochi Games offered an opportunity to protest the oppression of gay people in Russia.

In a New York Times op-ed, playwright, actor, and activist Harvey Fierstein asserted that Russian president Vladimir Putin had "declared war on homosexuals." After detailing the deplorable conditions for glbtq people in Russia, including the increase in violence directed toward people suspected of being gay, he forcefully called for a boycott of the Winter Games.

Other activists followed with calls of boycotts of Russian products, such as vodka, and proposals to move the Games from Russia.

Deputy Prime Minister Dmitri Kozak tried to downplay the risks and sounded a familiar note, stating, "No one should have any concern whatsoever. People can get on with their private lives, and spread their respective advantages and attractions among adults. The main thing is that this does not touch children." Subsequently, however, Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko declared that anyone at Sochi in any capacity would be "held accountable" for "propagandizing" about glbtq rights in any way.

Putin issued a decree banning protests for the duration of the Olympic Games even as he assured Olympic officials that all would be welcome at the Games.

Many athletes objected to a boycott and pointed, rather naïvely, to the gold-medal performances by African-American track star Jesse Owens at the 1936 Games in Berlin and suggested that if glbtq athletes at Sochi also won medals, prejudice would somehow be overcome. History tells us the opposite: although Owens's victories were impressive individual achievements, they had negligible effect on the showcasing on Germany during the Games and none on German policy.

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