Russian gay laws prompt ambassador demand

The Russian ambassador must be called in by Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore over an anti-gay clampdown in the country, ahead of next year’s winter Olympics, a leading Fine Gael TD has urged.

Cork South Central TD Jerry Buttimer has joined a growing wave of international concern about the Russian government’s new legislation, which has been branded “homophobic”.

US President Barack Obama has expressed alarm about new anti-gay laws imposed in the country, and British broadcaster Stephen Fry has compared Russia being allowed to host the Olympics with the Nazi Berlin games of 1936.

Mr Buttimer says he does not want a boycott of the winter games, but insists Ireland and the International Olympic Committee must put pressure on the Kremlin to change course. “This new law is clearly founded on prejudice and can only be judged as a clear attempt to restrict the gay community in Russia,” he said.

“This is an extremely worrying departure, and one that should not be tolerated. I believe it is incumbent on the international community to take a stand on this issue.

“Any law which prohibits the ‘propagation of non-traditional sexual relations’ has at its core a fundamental denial of basic human rights of LGBT people, rights which should be enjoyed by everyone.

“This is a dangerous step away from acceptance and towards intolerance. I have no doubt that this law will lead to an increase in hate crimes and homophobia against LGBT people in Russia.

“These laws have attracted extra attention because of the potential impact on foreign athletes travelling to Russia for the 2014 Winter Olympics.

“This event must not be allowed to add any legitimacy, implied or otherwise, to a law which erodes the rights of the LGBT minority. In order to maintain its integrity, the Olympic movement must make it clear that it does not condone this regressive piece of legislation,” the TD said.

Mr Buttimer, chairman of the Fine Gael LGBT group, urged the Government to take a stance.

“I am writing to the Tánaiste and asking him to call in the Russian ambassador and express the Government’s concern at what is happening in Russia. The Irish Olympic committee also need to make their views known on this.

“I do not want to see a boycott, but we do need to make a stand and make it clear that this situation cannot continue,” he said.

Mr Fry claimed that Russian president Vladimir Putin “is making scapegoats of gay people, just as Hitler did [of the] Jews”.

Fianna Fáil Senator Averil Power has also urged the Tánaiste to publicly oppose the Russian stance.

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