In Russia it is now illegal to even speak about homosexuality around minors, much less openly display gay pride. Technically the ban is against “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations” around minors, but the implication for openly gay individuals is clear. Public displays of affection by gays, including holding hands or displaying symbols like a rainbow flag, are now banned. Violators face steep fines and jail time; foreigners face similar penalties plus deportation.
So what will happen to openly gay athletes and fans, as well as any vocal supporters or protestors, when Russia hosts the Winter Olympics next year in Sochi?
This week, comments by a lawmaker from St. Petersburg set off a firestorm online when he said that fans and athletes would not be immune from prosecution during the games.
Vitaly Milonov, who sponsored legislation in St. Petersburg last year that became the basis for a national law signed by President Vladimir Putin in June, was quoted telling the Interfax news agency that the law will remain in place during the Olympics and will be applied to foreigners.