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Lawmakers press Kerry on Americans’ safety during Olympic games in Russia

Monday, August 5, 2013
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WASHINGTON — A bipartisan group of 88 Congressional lawmakers, led by U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), the ranking member of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice, is pressing Secretary of State John Kerry to ensure the saftey of American athletes and spectators at the 2014 Olympic games in Sochi, Russia.

U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.)

The action comes amid growing concern over recent anti-gay laws signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin that ban public discussion of LGBT subjects around “minor children,” which has also been widely interpreted to include public displays of affection between adults, and LGBT pride events.

In a letter to Kerry, the lawmakers say they want to know what diplomatic measures the State Department is planning to take to ensure Americans are not arrested, detained or otherwise penalized while in Russia amid that country’s cracckdown on gay rights and LGBT citizens.

“The United States must do everything we can to protect those Americans who are traveling to Russia for the Olympic and Paralympic Games this winter,” said Nadler, in a statement. “Russia’s anti-LGBT laws defy basic human rights that should be guaranteed to everyone at all times and in all places.”

While there have been conflicting messages, including one statement by the International Olympics Committee that said they had received assurances from Russian officials that the law would not be enforced among Olympic visitors, Russian lawmakers have since said that is not the case.

“An athlete of nontraditional sexual orientation isn’t banned from coming to Sochi,” Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko said. “But if he goes out into the streets and starts to propagandize, then of course he will be held accountable.”

“These laws are completely contrary to the uniting spirit of the Olympics, which brings diverse nations together in a spirit of peaceful and friendly competition,” said Nadler.

Text of the letter and list of signatories is here.

Last week, U.S. Sen. Edward Markey, (D-Mass.) sent a letter to the Russian Ambassador to the United States, Sergey Kislyak, asking for similar assurances that American athletes and fans would be safe on Russian soil.

And U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) said he plans to introduce a Senate resolution calling on the International Olympic Committee to oppose Russia’s anti-LGBT propaganda law, and also receive guarantees about the law’s enforcement during the games.

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