MOSCOW — U.S. middle distance runner Nick Symmonds on Tuesday dedicated silver medal at the World Track & Field Championships in Moscow to his gay and lesbian friends back home, becoming the first athlete to openly criticize Russia’s controversial anti-gay “propaganda” law while on Russian soil.
“As much as I can speak out about it, I believe that all humans deserve equality as however God made them,” said Symmonds in a statement after taking second in the 800-meter race, reported RIA Novosti.
“Whether you’re gay, straight, black, white, we all deserve the same rights. If there’s anything I can do to champion the cause and further it, I will, shy of getting arrested,” he said.
Symmonds, 29, an outspoken LGBT right advocate and ally, made his opposition to a new law banning the promotion of homosexuality to minors known in a blog post for Runner’s World magazine on August 6.
“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 (butt) 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,” he wrote.
The law, signed by President Vladimir Putin on June 29, is aimed at “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations among minors.” It imposes fines for organizations, plus stiffer penalties for propaganda online or in the media.
The laws have so far sparked controversy among LGBT activists, with some calling for a boycott of the Winter Games, while others have called for a boycott of Russian vodka as a form of protest.
Observers speculate that Symmonds’ remarks Tuesday could put him at risk of being arrested in Russia.