A gay professional figure skater from the US has said he is not scared to get arrested in Russia for being gay, following the passage of several anti-gay laws in June.
Johnny Weir said in an interview with CBS that he would face arrest in Russia for being gay, if that is what it took for “people to pay attention”.
“Like anyone, I’m afraid of being arrested, but also I’m not afraid of being arrested,” Weir said, referring to the law signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin banning the “promotion” of homosexuality to minors.
“If it takes me getting arrested for people to pay attention and for people to lobby against this law, then I’m willing to take it,” he said.
President Vladimir Putin signed the law in June banning the promotion of “non-traditional relationships” toward minors, a move that has been criticised as part of a broader crackdown on Russia’s gay community. Other laws banning the adoption of Russian children by foreign same-sex couples, and one which enables organisations receiving funding from abroad to be fined as “foreign agents”, were also passed.
The laws have so far sparked controversy among LGBT activists, with some calling for a boycott of the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. Others have also called to boycott Russian vodka as a form of protest.
In an interview last week, a senior International Olympics Committee member said: “Russia must respect the Olympic Charter, or we will say goodbye to them”, broaching the question of relocating the games with the IOC for the first time.
He said: “With people killing themselves and being scared into the closet, I hope that even just one person can gain strength from my story.”
A US athlete yesterday became the first to speak out in favour of lesbian and gay people whilst competing on Russian soil, using his victory speech after winning silver, in protest against anti-gay laws passed in June.