Russia Anti-Gay Law Sparks Protests, Olympic Boycott Threats

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The Russian Parliament's support for a new law banning "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations around minors" is sparking international outcry.

Implemented after President Vladimir Putin signed it into law, it bars the public discussion of gay rights and relationships anywhere children might hear it.

Russia's anti-gay law has quickly been condemned by domestic and international rights groups as highly discriminatory, and has prompted retaliation.

From calls for a boycott of the Olympics to gay bars in Los Angeles planning "vodka-dumping" protests, reaction has been as swift as it is negative.

Human Rights Watch described the anti-gay propaganda law as "a profoundly discriminatory, dangerous bill that is bound to worsen homophobia in Russia."

Its implications may be wide-ranging.

As Russia prepares to host the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, there is growing concern about what the legislation will mean for gay athletes and visitors.

The debate was stirred up this week by St. Petersburg politician Vitaly Milonov, who implemented a local, earlier version of the propaganda law in his city.

Amid word that Russia would not enforce the law during the Olympics, he said all Russian laws should be enforced there, regardless of who is breaking them.

"If a law has been passed by parliament and signed by the president, the government has no right or powers to reverse it," Milonov told the media.

There have been conflicting calls from gay rights activists over a suggested boycott of the Sochi Games, which some believe would only be counterproductive.

Critics of such a move believe activists should focus on putting pressure on Russia's government rather than denying athletes a chance to compete.

The International Olympic Committee issued a statement saying the Russian government had given assurances that gay visitors would not be affected by the law.

"The Games themselves should be open to all, free of discrimination, and that applies to spectators, officials, media and of course athletes," it said.

"To that end, the IOC has received assurances from the highest level of government in Russia that the legislation will not affect those attending or taking part."

USA Track and Field, the U.S. national governing body for athletics, is treating the matter as a safety and security issue, spokeswoman Jill Geer told CNN.

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