Russia hasn't made itself especially welcoming to the LGBT community ahead of the Winter Olympic Games in Sochi next month. And Sochi Mayor Anatoly Pakhomov's insistence that his city of 340,000 residents has no gay people whatsoever probably won't help matters.
PAKHOMOV: "We don’t have them in our town."
JOHN SWEENEY: "You don’t have them in your town? Are you sure?"
PAKHOMOV: "I'm not sure. I don't bloody know them." (Via BBC)
Russia has long been criticized for its handling of LGBT issues. In a 2012 report, the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association ranked Russia in the bottom 10 of most gay-friendly European countries, due to the country's laws.
And since then, Russia has enacted another law forbidding public discussion and public demonstrations for gay rights. That policy has provoked a flurry of pro-LGBT activity from politicians, businesses and celebrities in recent weeks. (Via The Washington Post)
President Obama made waves by including several gay athletes in the U.S.' Olympic ceremony delegation. American Apparel produced a line of protest-themed wear, featuring the Olympic Charter text prohibiting discrimination, and Rachel Maddow spoke up on the "Late Show With David Letterman."
"Simply being open about their sexual orientation in Russia right now is like a one-finger salute to Vladimir Putin, and I think a lot of people who would have otherwise not brought it up are going to be bringing it up." (Via CBS / "Late Show With David Letterman")
Two weeks ago, Russian President Vladimir Putin tried to tamp down the situation, saying "individuals of non-traditional orientation cannot feel like second-rate humans in this country" and that they aren't discriminated against. (Via ABC)
Some gay athletes argue their strongest form of protest at the games would be winning.
Canadian speedskater Anastasia Bucsis says, "It's not going to affect the way I prepare specifically for my race" and that it's "hard to even grasp that a law based on such discrimination and bigotry exists in 2014." (Via Canada.com)
Opening ceremonies for Sochi's games will be held Feb. 7.