Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson expresses alarm about Russia's antigay laws and Sochi Winter Olympics

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      The international backlash to Russia's adoption of antigay legislation in June and July has been steadily mounting.

      In June, the U.S.–based Russian queer activist group RUSA LGBT called for a boycott of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.

      On July 17, the International Olympic Committee released a statement reaffirming its commitment to ensuring the Olympics are free from discrimination based on sexual orientation. 

      From the world of arts and entertainment, actor Tilda Swinton and British indie band Autoheart created visual and musical protests. Actor and playwright Harvey Fierstein wrote an opinion piece in the New York Times, noting that "Russia's president, Vladimir V. Putin, has declared war on homosexuals" but "so far, the world has mostly been silent". 

      Four Dutch tourists, who were making a documentary about gay rights in Russia but were arrested in Murmansk, Russia, on July 21 for alleged "gay propaganda", were released on July 22.

      On July 24, Savage Love columnist Dan Savage called for a boycott of Russian vodka to counter "Putin's anti-gay pogrom". Numerous Vancouver bars which serve LGBT clientele—including the Fountainhead Pub, the Cobalt, Oasis, Celebrities, Score, and the Pumpjack—have joined the boycott by refusing to serve Russian vodka. (Stoli vodka returned to state ownership in 2002.)

      Meanwhile, the mayor of Reykjavik wants to sever the sister-city relationship between the Icelandic capital and Moscow.

      Joining in the international criticism, on July 26, Vancouver mayor Gregor Robertson issued the following statement expressing his concern about the Winter Olympics in Sochi and Russia's antigay laws.

      “As host Mayor of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games, I have been alarmed to learn of further discriminatory legislation and violent actions targeting the LGBTQ community in Russia ahead of the upcoming 2014 Games in Sochi.”
      “It is my firm belief that the Olympic and Paralympic Games should be fully and unequivocally open to all athletes, officials, spectators and journalists who are able to participate, regardless of their nationality, gender, or sexual orientation. It is clear to me that the Russian parliament’s homophobic assault on the fundamental human rights of the LGBTQ community will prevent many of these individuals from safely and openly participating in Sochi.

      “As we welcomed the world for the 2010 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games, we were proud to have the opportunity to showcase the diversity, acceptance, and freedoms that make Vancouver such a vibrant place to live and visit. We were also proud to feature the first Pride House at any Olympic Games, which provided a safe space and resource centre for LGBTQ athletes, coaches, spectators and other visitors. I am dismayed to see this important progress rolled back ahead of the next Olympics in Sochi.
      “I would like to join the millions worldwide who are calling upon Russia to end its violent crackdown on the human rights and free expression of the LGBTQ community ahead of hosting the world in Sochi. I am also calling upon the International Olympic Committee and International Paralympic Committee to urgently explore every possible option to ensure that the next Olympic and Paralympic Games are hosted in a manner that guarantees the full, safe, and open participation of the LGBTQ community.”

      The mayor will make an official Vancouver Pride Week proclamation on Monday (July 29) at Vancouver City Hall.

      You can follow Craig Takeuchi on Twitter at You can also follow the Straight's LGBT coverage on Twitter at



      Alan Layton

      Jul 26, 2013 at 12:22pm

      What do you expect from a booze-addled country that is still emerging from the Stone Age that their terrible communist system forced them in to. Their country is run by criminals and a redneck dictator, who seems to constantly need to prove that he is a 'real man'. I say boycott everything Russian.


      Jul 26, 2013 at 12:41pm

      do u think the Russians care what the west thinks, watch Europe freeze in the wintertime with no Russian gas.


      Jul 26, 2013 at 2:24pm

      I'm sure this will get the mayor some votes, but he should focus more on municipal concerns like sewers, traffic, and crime


      Jul 26, 2013 at 3:00pm

      The real test for the Organizing Committee in Sochi, the IOC & Putin's government, will be during the Games when the media, spectators & athletes try to report/talk about the anti gay laws...even just be oneself may test the laws and promises. No one can guarantee that violence/arrests will not happen...not even the IOC.

      Boycotting the Games will only make life worse for the Russian LGBTQ community. Putin's anti gay laws sanction violence towards it's targets. (see the numerous videos online) Imagine how boycotting a $50 Billion "coming out" party could enflame the situation.

      The Olympic sponsors, Panasonic, VISA, McDonald's to name a few and Russian companies...they could play a key role ensuring the IOC adheres to it's Charter and grants future Games to nations that practice Olympic ideals.

      If anything needs boycotting, it's the IOC sponsors. Money & reputation for these companies is pivotal to their success. Putin couldn't care less what the world thinks of him or his policies and may never change his mind on homosexuality. That's his choice.

      However, the corporate world knows better, they like money, everyones money. Make them answer for their silent involvement with homophobia.

      Attention ******

      Jul 26, 2013 at 3:01pm

      I'm sure Moonbeam has Putin shaking in his valenki's. Why does Vision always feel the need to wade into issues that have no relevance to their authority?


      Jul 26, 2013 at 4:14pm

      It's a lot easier to fool people then to convince them - they are being fooled.I am not talking about the Russians,I am talking about you people. It's not an anti gay law,NOTHING happens to gays in Russia,unless they decide to have sex in public or show it in the media.I for one do not want my 10 year old child to see 2 people having sex,on TV or otherwise.Shame on me...

      Canadian Gal

      Jul 26, 2013 at 4:53pm

      I think it's great to hear local government voicing their disapproval of these backwards laws. We as a community, a province, and as a country, need to make a united front. This type of discrimination on a world stage is unacceptable.

      James Gren

      Jul 26, 2013 at 9:31pm

      Gregor should be called Sound Bite Robertson. He will issue a press release on anything he can do nothing about or spin his actions so he looks like he is doing something. What has he done signiicant to support anyone in this city? Nothing besides advocating for chicken coops, bike lanes, and gardens. Come election 2014 please join me in sending this superfical mayor packing so we can start to govern this city as a big city not a small village and begin solving the real problems of this city.

      @Alan Layton

      Jul 26, 2013 at 9:32pm

      Generalizing wildly about Russians and throwing around negative Russian stereotypes is just as asinine as doing so about homosexuals. Both approaches are absurd. I'll never understand why people are so afraid of one another and so quick to condemn one another. Live and let live. Happy Pride, everyone..and that goes for LGBTQ Russians also, in Vancouver, in Russia, and around the world


      Jul 26, 2013 at 10:18pm

      I do not give a dam what they do, it is their country and we do not need a Pride Parade in Vancouver either.