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October 02, 2013

U.S. Olympic Committee Open to Amending Olympic Charter to Ban LGBT Discrimination

New York City – Human Rights First applauds comments made yesterday by the president of the United States Olympic Committee (USOC) Larry Probst, in which he signaled willingness to amend the Olympic Charter to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation. These remarks are in response to the international outcry over Russia’s antigay laws as the country prepares to host the 2014 Olympic Games.

“Human Rights First has called on the USOC to take a leadership position in speaking out against Russia’s laws that discriminate against LGBT individuals, and yesterday’s remarks show that the organization is moving in that direction,” said Human Rights First’s Innokenty Grekov. “This is a positive development, and we urge the USOC to keep up the pressure and to prioritize this issue as they get ready for the Winter Games.”

In yesterday’s comments Probst said of the USOC, “We want to lead by example and advocate internally within the global Olympic community to make sure we, as a family, are doing everything we can to send the message that we don’t tolerate discrimination.” The Olympic Charter already expressly forbids any type of discrimination, but last week the chair of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) Coordination Commission Jean-Claude Killy, announced that the controversial Russian law does not violate the Charter.

Amendments to the Olympic Charter can be proposed at the annual session meetings and require the support of two-thirds of the votes by IOC members. There are currently 112 members who represent the International Olympic Committee in their respective countries. Based on the voting patterns of sexual orientation-inclusion resolutions at the United Nations, a vote amending the Olympic Charter would likely not pass. At least 35 current members of the IOC represent countries that either criminalize same-sex relations or hold unfavorable views on gay rights.

Host to the 2014 Games, Russia continues to deny that there is discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, yet LGBT individuals are vulnerable to violence, and public events are routinely denied by Russian authorities who cite the anti-“propaganda” law to justify their discriminatory treatment of gays and lesbians. An attempt to register a nongovernmental Pride House for the Sochi Olympics was denied by a court that cited the non-admissibility of “propaganda” of nontraditional sexual orientation.

“As the world prepares for Sochi 2014, the IOC and foreign governments shouldn’t be satisfied with Russia’s reassurances and should work together to establish plans of action if the federal antigay law is used in Russia,” concluded Grekov. “The USOC has taken a huge step in leading this movement, and they should continue to speak out against discrimination and hate.”

For more information or to speak with Grekov, contact Brenda Bowser Soder at BowserSoderB@humanrightsfirst.org or 202-370-3323.