US Olympian Nick Symmonds criticizes Russia’s anti-LGBT laws

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US Olympian Nick Symmonds was the first competitor at the world athletics championship to condemn Russia for its treatment of the LGBT community and how it will effect the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

“Several people who know me to be a relatively vocal athlete when it comes to political issues were excited to hear me discuss what it’s like to compete in a country with questionable human rights laws,” Symmonds wrote on his blog for Runner’s World magazine.  “Given that I have always been adamant in my support of gay rights at home in the United States, I assumed these followers were referring to Russia’s ‘anti-gay propaganda’ legislation.””¨”¨”These laws, which do not expressly prohibit being homosexual, criminalize public discussion of homosexuality, especially with foreigners. As an American, I believe in freedom of speech and equality for all, and therefore disagree with the laws that Russia has put in place.”

Symmonds continued, “I will say, once again, that our LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) neighbors deserve all the same rights as the rest of us. However, as an American who is about to reside in Moscow for 12 days, this will be the last time I will mention this subject.”

Russian President Putin implemented these anti-gay laws to instill the country’s Catholic orthodox values and to protect the youth. If a person shows any forms of “homosexual propaganda,” they will be imprisoned for 14 days. “¨”¨”I say this not out of fear of prosecution by the Russian government, but out of respect for the fact that I will be a guest in the host nation. Just as I would not accept a dinner invite to a friend’s house and then lecture them on how to raise their kids, neither will I lecture the Russian government on how to govern their people,” Symmonds continued.”¨”¨”If I am placed in a race with a Russian athlete, I will shake his hand, thank him for his country’s generous hospitality, and then, after kicking his ass in the race, silently dedicate the win to my gay and lesbian friends back home. Upon my return, I will then continue to fight for their rights in my beloved democratic union.”

In response to the claims from Russian politicians who have stated that LGBT athletes and spectators will not be exempt from the law, 83 Members of Congress have supported a resolution to protect visitors in Russia. President Obama said on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno that he has “no patience” for countries that restrict equality.

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