HRC Leading U.S. Gays in failing to take the ultimate stand against Russia’s anti-Gay laws

“The contradiction glares when HRC asks the IOC to ensure “special treatment’ for American athletes and visitors. I find it unconscionable of HRC not to be taking the ultimate stand for a BOYCOTT of the Olympic SOCHI Games in Russia and using their immense power and membership to demand that  IOC  move the games out of Russia.”

By Melanie Nathan, August 05, 2013.

Screen Shot 2013-08-05 at 9.38.31 AMI was born in South Africa, where the Government had legislated the horrendous Apartheid laws before I was born. These laws discriminated against and served to oppress black South Africans. I grew up in segregated schools, segregated cities, separate park benches and beaches, and black South Africans did not have a vote. I went to university and practiced law there while, living through the “should we boycott” and “should we divest” arguments from around the world, all as a privileged white kid. Most my family and friends were against Apartheid. Those who had the courage of their convictions, understood that it would take an all out boycott and divestment to bring Apartheid to its knees and ultimately to an end. The black South Africans were willing to take on the hugely negative impact of such boycotts in the name of freedom and equality. And the privileged whites who had the courage of their convictions came to realize that this was the only way.

The argument raged from across the oceans for a very long time before the boycotts and sanctions occurred. When they did, it was highly effective. We were isolated from international sports. There would never have been an Olympic Games in South Africa during those times. The consciousness was strong and people would never have shown up, least of all sponsored such events. And our athletes were prevented from competing in almost every venue around the world. People would not buy our products.   We were demonized as a Nation and quite rightly so. It was very difficult to live for many in South Africa and most especially for those who were in fact the true victims of the oppression. Yet it was worth it! Apartheid ended and it was relatively swift after the sanctions.

Now Russia has legislated sweeping antigay laws and American athletes and sponsors are headed to the Olympic Games in SOCHI Russia, 2014.

While I am not trying to compare Apartheid per se to Russia’s new laws against LGBTI Russians, there are indeed many similarities. And many may think that it is a lame comparison because the LGBTI Russians are in the minority and not the majority as were the South African black people. However how we handle our protests as an international gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and ally community must be seen through the same eyes, with no compromise, and no half-measures. It is entirely up to us and we must be be absolute in our convictions.

Now in social media, on our blogs and in the press we as an international LGBTI community have been discussing the SOCHI Games in Russia and it seems HRC has come up with its idea of a protest or solution. It falls far short of what we as an LGBTI International community should be doing. And yes we should use the South African model in our call for change.

And here we are, with thanks to our biggest LGBT membership orgaization HRC, on the other side of the ocean being led to a  half-baked call and protest.

To my way of thinking it should be all or nothing and so I was exceedingly disappointed to get this e-mail (in full below) from The Human Rights Campaign, which is taking a half measure in its advocacy against the horrendous laws. In fact I find their plea quite contradictory and ineffective.   If you read the letter which members received from HRC today, you will see they are asking the International Olympic Committee (IOC):

To get a guarantee of security for athletes and visitors – and to call out the shocking treatment of LGBT Russians.”  And further “ the IOC must get Russian President Putin to put it in writing that ALL visitors and athletes will be safe during the Olympic Games.” And further, “Our strategy here is simple: The eyes of the world will be on Russia during the Olympics early next year, providing our best opportunity yet to pressure the Russian government to get rid of their anti-LGBT laws.

HRC adds that they are seeking the rescission of the anti-gay laws and further state:

“And, we will not quit pushing the IOC until they have done everything in their power to help reverse the dangerous course that the Russian government has chartered.”

However the contradiction glares when HRC asks the IOC to ensure “special treatment’, in effect, for American athletes and visitors. I find it unconscionable of HRC not to be taking the ultimate stand for a BOYCOTT of Sochi and using their immense power and membership to demand that IOC  move he games out of Russia. HRC should be speaking to sponsors of SOCHI demanding they be the ones to make the noise to IOC too and that we the community also make it known to sponsor of the Sochi Games that we do not want them supporting Russia at all during this time.

Unfortunately some Russian activists have got the word out above others, that they would prefer that we do not boycott the Games or call for the event to be removed from Russian soil.  But that is not how all of Russia’s LGBTI community feels. And it is reminiscent of the argument in South Africa at the time. Some South Africans impacted by Apartheid said ‘yes’ and some said ‘no’ to boycotts. However it boiled down to the principles established by the international community – the winning principle and remedy came from those who simply refused to participate in Apartheid, and so 100% boycott and isolation became the call.

As an international LGBTQI GAY community we should be refusing to participate at all in Russia, until the law is rescinded and our leadership should be the ones making that ultimate call. But instead our biggest organization, The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) is condoning participation and asking for “special treatment” to be ensured by IOC for Americans while there.

While I applaud HRC for drawing attention to the antigay laws, I find their call to action absolutely unacceptable and hypocritical.

I have a few thoughts as to why HRC is not taking the ultimate stand against Russia. And will address only one for the purposes of this article. This is surely speculation and I will make the call and provide follow-up comments. It is my belief that HRC will do nothing to rock the boat with corporate America which provides much support to HRC through mega dollars in sponsorships.  These very sponsors are amongst those who are providing sponsorship to the SOCHI Games in Russia.

HERE is HRC’s Full letter to supporters, of course attached to a plea for donations on the backs of our LGBT victims in Russia:

Dear Melanie,

When the Olympic Games start in Sochi, Russia next year, there’ll be a lot more than gold medals on the line.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) claims that the country’s new, repressive anti-LGBT law won’t affect LGBT athletes and visitors, but top Russian officials have now said the exact opposite, threatening trouble for anyone who violates this alarming statute.

Screen Shot 2013-08-05 at 9.44.44 AMWe know the government is already cracking down on LGBT Russians, arresting and fining their own citizens for nothing more than publicly supporting LGBT equality.

To get a guarantee of security for athletes and visitors – and to call out the shocking treatment of LGBT Russians – we have to make enough noise that the IOC can’t ignore us. Do you have one minute to speak out?

Add your name to HRC’s letter to the IOC now: The IOC must strongly condemn the Russian Federation’s crackdown. Further, the IOC must get Russian President Putin to put it in writing that ALL visitors and athletes will be safe during the Olympic Games.

The IOC cannot rely on backroom promises from unnamed Russian government officials. The law that’s in question would threaten imprisonment and deportation for any visitor convicted of promoting equality.

That means a person could be arrested in Russia for something as benign as wearing an HRC t-shirt.

And while the IOC has so far tried to allay concerns about safety during the Olympics, we need them to do MUCH more – starting with a clear condemnation of Russia’s actions against its own people to date.

Our strategy here is simple: The eyes of the world will be on Russia during the Olympics early next year, providing our best opportunity yet to pressure the Russian government to get rid of their anti-LGBT laws.

As somebody dedicated to advancing equality everywhere, you can help make a ruckus so large that the IOC will have no choice but to condemn Russia’s actions and ensure the safety of equality supporters at the 2014 Olympic Games.

Sign HRC’s letter to the IOC today, and help us guarantee the safety of all LGBT people in Russia – citizens and visitors alike:

Message

HRC’s Statement to the International Olympic Committee

International Olympic Committee:

We understand that the IOC has received assurances from some unnamed Russian officials that supporters of LGBT equality will be exempt from Russia’s new “anti-propaganda” law during the 2014 Winter Olympics. However, within the past two days, two Russian officials have gone out of their way to contradict the IOC in no uncertain terms. As you know, it is completely unacceptable to wager the safety of equality supporters on private assurances of the Russian government. And, we know the IOC finds the safety of all Olympic athletes and visitors of paramount importance.

The “anti-propaganda” law is so obtuse that a person could be arrested in Russia for simply wearing a t-shirt promoting LGBT equality — something we are confident the IOC supports. This law is an abomination and poses a human rights imperative for all to speak out.

Mere verbal assurances from these unnamed Russian government officials that foreigners will be exempt from their repressive laws are not enough. The IOC must obtain ironclad written assurance from President Putin. But more importantly, the IOC must advocate for the safety of all LGBT people in Russia, not simply those visiting for the Olympics. Rescinding this heinous law must be our collective goal.

Sincerely, (your name)

We cannot ignore a government that criminalizes people like us who support equality. And, we will not quit pushing the IOC until they have done everything in their power to help reverse the dangerous course that the Russian government has chartered.

Sincerely,

Ann Crowley
Director of Online Strategy

I am asking activists to call HRC and suggest that asking for special treatment and guarantees of safety is nothing more than a ploy for donations and a half-baked joke at involvement. Why are they resorting to half-measures?  Do they fear alienating their own sponsors? Is this a conflict of interests?  If they give you the answer that they do not think a full out Boycott would gain traction, I suggest using the South African argument, where for a long time, it too did not gain traction.

I left a message for Ann Crowley at HRC for comment and will report back as an update if I hear back from her.

Please join me in asserting,  that we are not afraid to fail in our plea for the ultimate call to boycott. We demand an all out boycott of everything Russian, from Vodka to the SOCHI Games, until the laws that oppress Russia’s LGBTI community and visitors to Russia are fully rescinded  and many of us LGBTI activists stand for nothing less!

@RUSALGBT @HRC @IvanSavvine #BoycottSochi #LGBT #BoycottRussia

Thanks,

Melanie Nathan
commissionermnathan@gmail.com
@melanienathan1

PLEASE JOIN ME AND FELLOW ACTIVISTS AT CITY HALL SAN FRANCISCO:

Screen Shot 2013-08-05 at 10.13.13 AMLeaders of Gays Without Borders and the Boycott Russian Vodka campaign are pleased to announce they will dump Russian vodka down the sewer in front of San Francisco’s City Hall this Tuesday, August 6 at noon.

The activists have a multi-purpose agenda for the protest in regards to Mayor Ed Lee:

1) Support the boycott of Russian vodka just as he endorsed the Chik-Fil-A boycott last year;


2) Agree not to serve Russian vodka or use Russian products at City functions;


3) Sever any “sister-city” relationships and agreements between San Francisco and any cities in Russia;


4) Declare opposition as the City’s top elected official to the anti-LGBT laws in Russia and deplore the escalating violence against the LGBT community in Russia.

We will dump bottles of Russian vodka into the gutter as a protest against the hatred and legislation targeting gay Russians, express solidarity with that community at this dangerous time, build on the recent dumps of Stolichnaya outside the Russian Consulate in New York City and to call on gay and gay-friendly bars and restaurants to stop selling Russian libations because it will help with the liberation of LGBT Russians.

Please join us for this important action on August 6 at noon, on the Polk Street steps of City Hall.


18 thoughts on “HRC Leading U.S. Gays in failing to take the ultimate stand against Russia’s anti-Gay laws

  1. Reblogged this on It Is What It Is and commented:
    My stance is hand in hand with Ms. Nathan’s …. “We demand an all out boycott of everything Russian, from Vodka to the SOCHI Games, until the laws that oppress Russia’s LGBTI community and visitors to Russia are fully rescinded and many of us LGBTI activists stand for nothing less!” Look at the historical parallel that she presents with the analogy of her childhood and Apartheid!!

  2. Anyone thinking the Olympics will be ‘made safe’ should read this from the NY Times. And then wonder why some are only concerned about the foreigners in Russia for a couple weeks during a highly press-covered international event:

    “We will beat all gays until they are half-dead.”

    Over the last couple of weeks some Western governments and individual athletes and tourists have wondered whether to boycott the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi to protest Russia’s antigay laws and protect themselves against them. The International Olympic Committee says it has received assurances from the Russian government that the laws will not be enforced during the Games. But the Kremlin is expanding such resources on fanning hatred that there can be no such thing as a protected space for gays, lesbians or the otherwise different in this country.

    Read it all here:
    http://latitude.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/08/05/gay-bashing-inside-the-garden-ring/?_r=1&

  3. This situation is tragic, and frightening. I wish IOC would change the location of the games… what a strong statement for equal human rights that would be! My fear, however, is that greed and power will trump reason, respect, and common sense. My heart and soul hurt for dear Russian LGBTs…i feel helpless because all i can do for now is keep them in my thoughts and prayers.

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