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February 24, 2014

Members of Congress Lee and Cicilline Support Principle 6

By Simone Salvo

IOC president Thomas Bach closed the Olympics last night with acclaim for the spirit of the Games in Sochi. He declared, “By living together under one roof in the Olympic Village, you send a powerful message from Sochi to the world, a message of a society of peace, tolerance and respect. I appeal to everybody implicated in confrontation, oppression or violence: Act on this Olympic message of dialogue and peace.”

From the very start of the Games dialogue, however, tolerance and peace were under attack. Hours before the Opening Ceremony, Russian LGBT activists in St. Petersburg and Moscow were arrested for spreading the very message Bach would champion 17 days later. Human Rights First met with one of the detained, Anastasiya Smirnova, just prior to her arrest to discuss one of the founding principles of the Olympics, Principle 6.

Principle 6 of the Olympic Charter avows that any form of discrimination is incompatible with the Olympic Movement. Spearheaded by Athlete Ally and All Out, the Principle 6 campaign launched with the understanding that in an environment hostile to LGBT persons, the nondiscrimination clause will not be enforced by paper alone. Principle 6 urges people to speak out against Russia’s antigay laws by celebrating sport’s capacity for inclusion. A partnership with American Apparel has made it especially easy to embody this important message.

Athletes and activists alike have shown their support for equal rights by wearing Principle 6 gear during the Olympics. Following outreach from Human Rights First, House LGBT Equality Caucus Chairs, Congressman Davide Cicilline (RI-1) and Congresswoman Barbara Lee (CA-13), joined the cause, sporting their Principle 6 gear as part of their goal to sustain diplomacy efforts in Russia. Cicilline also joined with Human Rights First to host a pre-Olympics Congressional briefing focused on the human rights crisis in Russia.

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The Winter Paralympics taking place March 7-16 will present further opportunity to call for equality in Russia and beyond while the cameras are still rolling.

To help ensure equality is never again an issue at the Olympic Games, Human Rights First is calling on the IOC to make a formal commitment to LGBT equality by updating Principle 6 of the Olympic Charter to include discrimination with regard to sexual orientation or gender identity.