White House reinforces criticism of Russia's anti-LGBT law, sidesteps boycott

Posted by Justin Snow
August 8, 2013 2:55 PM |

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The White House doubled-down on President Barack Obama's criticism of Russia's anti-LGBT law Thursday, one day after canceling a bilateral meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Speaking to reporters, White House press secretary Jay Carney reiterated remarks made by Obama during a Tuesday interview with Jay Leno on The Tonight Show and responded with a declarative "Yes" when asked if Obama specifically condemns the Russian law banning "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations." 

"The president absolutely opposes, and has made clear in other countries, laws that discriminate against individuals whether for race, religion, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation," Carney said.

"We certainly expect the host of any Olympics to ensure that they are a success and that includes ensuring that delegations and athletes are all treated appropriately and with respect," Carney added. 

Obama's Tuesday Tonight Show appearance marked the first time he had spoke out about the Russian law, telling host Jay Leno he has "no patience for countries that try to treat gays or lesbians or transgender persons in ways that intimidate them or are harmful to them."

Russian violators of the new law, which was signed by Putin on June 30, face fines and incarceration, while foreigners also face detention and deportation. Despite international pressure, Russian officials have not promised that athletes and foreign delegations will not be subject to the law when the Olympic games are held in Sochi this February. 

Nevertheless, Carney dismissed speculation that the United States could stage a boycott of the Winter Olympics, much as was done during the 1980 Summer Olympics following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

"That's a conversation we're not having," Carney said of a possible Olympic boycott. "The president was very clear about his views on the issues of gay rights, LGBT rights and concerns that have been raised internationally about laws in Russia and his expectation that as host of the Olympics Russia will conduct them in a way that shines a favorable light on them as well as ensures the absolutely necessary and proper treatment of delegations and athletes. To speculate about something like that is, I don't think, in anybody's interests." 

Yesterday, the White House announced Obama canceled a bilateral meeting scheduled to be held with Putin during the G20 Summit in St. Petersburg in September, crediting the cancellation to Russia's decision to grant NSA leaker Edward Snowden temporary asylum as well as a "lack of progress on issues such as missile defense and arms control, trade and commercial relations, global security issues, and human rights and civil society." 

Although Russia's anti-LGBT law played a role in the cancelation of the meeting, Carney said Thursday he did not know if there have been direct conversations with the Russian’s about the law. Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel are scheduled to meet with their Russian counterparts tomorrow. A State Department spokesperson said yesterday human rights will be among the topics on their agenda. 

According to Human Rights Campaign Vice President Fred Sainz, "The president's shown tremendous leadership on this issue and we'll expect him and his administration to continue to shine a spotlight on this heinous law."

[Photo: Jay Carney. Credit: Todd Franson/Metro Weekly.]


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