BURBANK, Calif. — President Barack Obama on Tuesday criticized a new Russian law cracking down on gay rights activism, saying he has “no patience for countries that try to treat gays and lesbians and transgendered persons in ways that intimidate them or are harmful to them.”
Obama’s remarks during an interview on NBC’s “The Tonight Show” mark the first time the president weighed in on the growing concern over Russia’s anti-gay laws, and their impact on athletes and spectators attending the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.
Russia’s contentious law was signed by President Vladimir Putin in late June, imposing fines on individuals accused of spreading “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations” to minors, and imposes penalties for those who express these views online or in the news media. Gay pride rallies also are banned, as are public display of affenction, including holding hands, between persons of the same gender.
Russian lawmakers have said the country will enforce the law when it hosts the 2014 Winter Olympics, but Obama said he believes Putin and Russia have “a big stake in making sure the Olympics work.”
“I think they understand that for most of the countries that participate in the Olympics, we wouldn’t tolerate gays and lesbians being treated differently,” he said.
In a wide-ranging interview broadcast Tuesday night, Obama also said he was “disappointed” that Russia granted temporary asylum to National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden, defying Obama administration demands that the former government contractor be sent back to the U.S. to face espionage charges.
Update, August 7, 2013:
The decision reflected both U.S. anger over Russia’s harboring of National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden and growing frustration within the Obama administration over what it sees as Moscow’s stubbornness on other key issues, including missile defense and human rights.