The decision to take an anti-gay campaign abroad – specifically to Russia and the Sochi Olympics – sounded pretty good last year when news broke that Russia’s Vladimir Putin signed bills banning any advocacy for LGBT equality in Russia.
The idea became even more tantalizing when Putin signed bills banning the adoption of Russian children by same-sex couples abroad, and by single people living in countries that allow same-sex marriage.
Last year, conservatives in America began praising Russia’s crackdown of gays and quietly provided support that encouraged the revitalized anti-gay movement we’re seeing there today. In October of last year Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage lobbied Russian officials stating, “right now you’re having the fight about adoption, but the adoption issue is indivisible from the marriage issue. If you don’t defend your values now, I’m afraid we’re going to see very negative developments all over the world.”
I couldn’t agree more. Brown is absolutely correct. The adoption issue is indivisible from the marriage issue, and if we don’t defend our values now, we’re going to see very negative developments all over the world. For instance, a member of the Russian Duma is proposing a law that would revoke gay people’s custody of their own biological children rationalizing that “children would be better off in orphanages than with a gay mother or father.” Try telling that to a child who is being ripped away from the only family he or she has ever known.
By now we can agree this international strategy has been a complete abortion for the American anti-gay activists who jumped at the chance to use the Olympics and its worldwide stage to promote their campaign “to defend the rights of the majority.” All these groups really accomplished was forcing support of gay and lesbian families out of the closet and onto the grandest stage our world shares — the Olympic stage. Suddenly Olympic sponsors and advertisers are compelled to speak of all families, new families, non-traditional families, equality and human rights. They are using all of the discreet jargon we employ to suggest their companies are inclusive of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender families.
Advertisers aren’t the only reason gays seem to have an upper hand. Russia’s enforcement of its new laws has been limp to non-inexistent so far, and global pro-gay political heavy-hitters are receiving more support now than ever. Even Google got in the Games by directing its daily doodle to the portion of the “Olympic Charter” which reads, “every individual must have the possibility of practicing sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.”
If you were under the mistaken impression the Olympics was about athletic talent, let me set you straight. The Olympics is – and always will be – about time, place, and the fittest of human values. It doesn’t matter if we are debating gender, race, sexual orientation or age – the Olympics represent endurance, the will to survive and a very human drive to carry on in the face of adversity. Anti-gay activists couldn’t have found a worse place to look for a home field advantage.
The end of this era is upon us. The International Olympics Committee (IOC) will never again select a host country so regressive in human rights – even if the IOC never admits the true reason for turning certain countries down. Brazil, the host of 2016’s Summer Olympics, recognizes marriage equality and the hosts for the next two events have already been chosen. Six years from now world demographics will have changed so much marriage equality will be a nonissue.
As for Putin and other Russian officials, they got into bed with the wrong bedfellow and everybody in the world watched as they did it. The American Religious Right tested the same anti-gay strategy, and it had traction 15-20 years ago. Those same attempts to block gays are now backfiring all over America.
A decade from now we’ll remember this as another of Russia’s blemishes of bigotry and as an overreach of America’s anti-gay groups. What we won’t remember is why they thought an international approach was a good idea in the first place.
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