by Will Kohler
Vladimir Putin sought Friday to downplay the the countries newly enacted anti-gay laws that have outraged millions across the globe in the wake of the Winter Olympics by stating that LGBT visitors to the Sochi Olympics are welcome in Russia but also added that they must “leave the children in peace.”
Responding to a question from an Olympics volunteer during a visit in the Black Sea resort city, Putin vowed that gays face no discrimination in Russia and should feel “at ease.”
But he emphasized that because of a Russian law banning gay “propaganda” among minors, they cannot express their views on gay rights issues to anyone under age.
We aren’t banning anything, we aren’t rounding up anyone, we have no criminal punishment for such relations … One can feel relaxed and at ease, but please leave the children in peace.
Putin appeared to lump homosexuality and pedophilia together.
“We have no ban on nontraditional sexual relations. We have a ban on propaganda of homosexuality and pedophilia, I want to underline that, on propaganda among minors,” he said.
Putin and other Russian politicians have defended the June propaganda law as a protection of child rights, but in reality the law has been used to discriminate, harass, and physically abuse against sexual minorities. The law specifically refers only to “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations.”
Putin insisted the measure isn’t discriminatory.
“We aren’t banning anything, we aren’t rounding up anyone, we have no criminal punishment for such relations, unlike many other countries,” he said. “One can feel relaxed and at ease, but please leave the children in peace.”