Monday, January 13, 2014

Sochi Travel Alert for LGBT Travelers

State Department issues LGBT travel warning for Sochi Olympics

Posted on 13 Jan 2014 at 10:33am

Sochi bear
The U.S. State Department issued a travel advisory Saturday for citizens traveling to Russia for the Winter Olympics next month, including a specific warning that “vague guidance” from Russia about its new laws making “it a crime to promote LGBT equality in public” could be used to fine, deport, or jail foreign visitors.
The LGBT warning was part of a longer advisory alerting Americans traveling to Sochi, Russia, for the Olympics that such highly publicized global events are seen as an “attractive target” for terrorists and that several acts of terrorism have already been perpetrated in Russia in the past few weeks.
The advisory, issued January 10, urges American citizens to “avoid large crowds in areas that lack enhanced security measures” and to use caution “in any areas where protests, demonstrations, or other public disturbances are taking place.”
“Demonstrations intended to be peaceful can develop quickly and unpredictably, sometimes turning violent,” notes the advisory.
The possibility of LGBT-related protests in Russia has been a concern since last June, when the Russian government approved its anti-gay laws. Although the Russian government says the laws are just focused on protecting children from “non-traditional sexual relations,” the legislation goes much further. Signed by President Vladimir Putin in June and July, they also prohibit any public displays of affection by same-sex couples and any public events related to LGBT people.
Early talk by activists of staging protests or wearing rainbow pins or waving rainbow flags at the Olympics was met with promises by the Russian government of tough enforcement of its laws. Putin and Russian officials have softened their tone in recent weeks, and earlier this month and said they would provide a designated area in a nearby village for protests. Then earlier this month, Putin signed an executive order that will require protesters to secure approval in advance.
But tensions seemed to be ready to escalate again over the weekend, when the head of the Russian Orthodox Church suggested the Russian people vote on whether to re-criminalize homosexuality.
The State Department advisory notes that foreign citizens could be fined as much as $3,100, jailed for 14 days, and deported for violating the laws.
“The law makes it a crime to promote LGBT equality in public, but lacks concrete legal definitions for key terms,” notes the advisory. “Russian authorities have indicated a broad interpretation of what constitutes ‘LGBT propaganda,’ and provided vague guidance as to which actions will be interpreted by authorities as ‘LGBT propaganda.’
The State Department maintains an LGBT Travel Information page.
LISA KEEN  |  Keen News Service

This is very troubling. The Russian government passed this homophobic hate law but then stated it would not be enforced for the period of the Olympics. They then said the law would be enforced but would not target travelers. Now they are saying it will be enforced against travelers engaging in "public displays of affection" or "displaying LGBT propaganda" whatever the hell that means. Hugging when meeting another man or to celebrate a goal? Two female gold and silver medal winners kissing on the podium? What is the Russian definition of a "public display of affection"? What is "displaying LGBT propaganda"? Wearing the "wrong" colored tie or scarf (putting a multi-colored scarf on the teddy bear above)? They have not defined it so that means it is open to interpretation by individual police officers (or religious inspired mobs as has already happened).

The Russian Church is calling for draconian laws against gay people similar to those recently passed in Uganda where gays face decades in prison just for being gay or straight people for "assisting" a gay person (like being a doctor, employer or landlord).

This is something we ALL should be deeply concerned with, not just those who are gay. Straight people must make their voice heard. We must speak loudly against hate legislation wherever it is threatened or passed.

I normally laugh off Travel Advisories by the US State Department because they usually center around the made up dangers of traveling in Mexico. This however is different. An easily identifiable class of people have been targeted.

A bit better bear:


  1. Crap from our State Department - makes me yawn.
    If we listened to them we would all be locked in our homes until we die of boredom.

  2. Thanks for posting this. It's pretty clear that Putin is reconstituting the old Soviet system, one oppressive law at a time. I don't approve of boycotting the Olympics. I think that just hurts athletes who truly have a once-in-a-lifetime chance to compete at the highest levels. (Four years later, and they may well have lost their edges, or become too old.) But I do think we need to do something to show that this slide backward toward the middle ages isn't the kind of change Russia needs.

    Heck, they just spent millions restoring the Bolshoi Theatre. Now they want to imprison half the dancers?

    The world needs to figure out that same-sex love isn't a problem until the world makes it into one.


    Kim G
    Boston, MA
    Where we're proud to be in the first state that legalized gay marriages.

    1. Exactly Kim! I agree with you on the boycott issue, athletes cannot wait another four years and it is their venue, I just wish at least one country had the guts to incorporate the Rainbow Flag into their uniforms. In your face, Putin!