President Obama spoke out against Russia's new strict anti-gay laws this week. The first gay President first went on The Tonight Show to voice his opinions on the matter that has already sparked national protest (in the form of pouring vodka in the gutter). This morning, the President followed up with additional remarks on the Russian Olympics in a press conference bookended by discussions of Edward Snowden and national security.
Russia's new laws ban anything that could be perceived as "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations," (like, say, men's figure skating) and make it a crime to openly discuss gay relationships in a place where children might be present. While some have called for a boycott of the 2014 Sochi Olympics, others like New York Times opinion columnist Frank Bruni would like to see all of Team USA stand in solidarity during the opening ceremony:
...as the television cameras zoom in on Team U.S.A., one of its members quietly pulls out a rainbow flag, no bigger than a handkerchief, and holds it up. Not ostentatiously high, but just high enough that it can’t be mistaken.
Another American follows suit. Then another, and another. Within minutes the flags are everywhere in the American delegation, subtly recurring bursts of color and of honor, a gay-rights motif with a message: we’re here in Russia to compete, but we’re not here in Russia to assent.
At today's press conference, Obama also said that he does not support a boycott of the 2014 Winter Olympics, despite frustrations with the homophobic new laws, saying it would not be fair to deny our hard-training athletes the chance to compete. In a subtle sporting moment, Obama claimed Russian teams would be "weaker" without gay athletes and that he would love to see our own gay and lesbian competitors bring home gold:
If Russia doesn't have any gay athletes in the Olympics, they'll be weaker. -@BarackObama— New York Daily News (@NYDailyNews) August 9, 2013
As he explained to Leno on Tuesday night: "I think Putin and Russia have a big stake in making sure the Olympics work [...] And I think they understand that for most of the countries that participate in the Olympics, we wouldn't tolerate gays and lesbians being treated differently." He went on:
I have no patience for countries that try to treat gays or lesbians or transgender persons in ways that intimidate them or are harmful to them One of the things I think is very important for me to speak out on is making sure that people are treated fairly and justly because that’s what we stand for, and I believe that that’s a precept that’s not unique to America. That’s just something that should apply everywhere.
The issue comes up around the 3:07 mark in this clip from the Tonight Show:
While Obama's remarks hace been celebrated as a strong stance concerning LGBT rights, one reporter at Forbes pointed out that the administration has been less stern with countries in the Middle East where homosexuality is not only illegal but punishable by death.