Message to Alex Ovechkin: Remember Your Washington Roots, Too
Washington, D.C. – Human Rights First calls on the Washington Capitals’ Alexander Ovechkin to carry the spirit of D.C. to Greece this weekend as becomes the first Russian to carry the Olympic torch after it is lit in Olympia, Greece, on September 29.
“Alex Ovechkin’s talents are revered on both sides of the Atlantic, but his fan home base is split between Moscow and Washington, D.C.,” said Human Rights First’s Innokenty Grekov. “Alex will carry the Olympic torch not just for Russia, but for the Washington Capitals as well, and he should remember that he represents a district where same-sex marriage equality was achieved in 2009, and that he has many fans in the LGBT community of D.C.”
Human Rights First had criticized the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) dismissal of concerns over Russia’s anti-“propaganda” law earlier this week. Instead of using the opportunity to oppose discrimination in sports, Jean-Claude Killy, chairman of the IOC Coordination Commission, announced the commission’s decision that the controversial law does not violate the Olympic Charter, which expressly prohibits discrimination.
Human Rights First’s analysis of the federal anti-“propaganda” ban and its regional precursors in the recently issued report Convenient Targets documents the impact of the federal and regional bans on the “propaganda” of “nontraditional sexual relations” to minors. Since there is no legal definition of “nontraditional sexual relations,” the law affects everybody in Russia but has been applied in a discriminatory fashion to target LGBT activists with fines and denials of public events. In addition to the discriminatory laws, the Russian government has continued to deny freedom of assembly and association to gay rights activists, banning gay pride parades and events in multiple cities, and denying registration to groups seeking to confront homophobia and promote tolerance and nondiscrimination.
“The latest in the line-up of these ‘propaganda’ laws is an attempt to remove children from the custody of parents suspected of ‘nontraditional sexual relations,’” noted Grekov. “Although the Russian Duma’s Family, Women, and Children Affairs Committee expressed skepticism over the bill, it remains registered in the Duma and it’s future remains unclear. The bill underscores the precarious position of LGBT individuals in Russia and accentuates the flaws with the concept of criminalizing ill-defined ‘propaganda’ of noncriminal acts.”