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Russia & The Six Rings: UK Equal Marriage, The Olympics, & Solidarity With LGBT Russia

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Russia’s new and existing anti-LGBT laws are well and truly in the spotlight this year, & as Putin’s crackdown ensues across the country on the eve of Russia hosting the Winter Olympics, an outcry of moral indignation has risen up from a number of participating countries. With comparisons to Nazi Germany and the 1936 Olympics, it’s hard for liberal politicians and the International Olympic Committee to stay silent.

Here in the UK popular opinion clearly (but not unanimously) condemns the draconian interference of the state into people’s private lives and sexualities, and having just passed Same Sex Marriage into law, people feel particularly justified in doing so. We may be miles ahead of Moscow, but with laws like Section 28 & it’s main proprietor only recently deceased it is important to continue holding the state to account on LGBT issues.

Tackling the thorny issue of Human Rights in Russia (not forgetting the 76+ countries with LGBT laws worse than Russia’s) in the run-up to the Olympics will show us an important and telling side of UK politicians and their commitment to LGBT people as people, rather than vote winning statistics, in the sickening age of the liberal populist diplomat. So what is the UK doing for it’s LGBT citizens and their Russian brothers and sisters, especially now that they have been put on the spot by Russia’s declaration that it will punish any athlete who displays support for the LGBT community.

Thousands of outraged citizens have put pen to paper to urge an outright boycott on the Russian Olympics, or at least their vodka, but the Russian LGBT Network has been pretty clear that they do not want us to boycott the Sochi 2014 Olympics, but to go and show solidarity.  The only other thing they’ve asked us to do is to target key players in the writing and passing of the anti-LGBT laws and try to get them on visa ban lists. The idea that liberals and activists in Britain have the requisite moral authority to decide otherwise is imperialistic and harmful, but the UK is at risk of doing nothing at all, which is arguably worse. Holland won the hearts of many LGBT campaigners last week when it met Putin with a special rainbow flag reception, but unfortunately inane flag-waving isn’t well known for getting things done, not to mention it is banned in Russia, inane or otherwise.

What prompted me to write this article is the next ludicrous step taken by the IOC, upholders of the Olympic Charter, to prevent athletes from showing support of the LGBT community at the upcoming Winter Games in Sochi. Although Russia has received a strict warning to improve on its LGBT human rights, Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko insisted last week that his government would not back down under political pressure. It seems that we are at a point of checkmate between the IOC and Russia’s vehement homophobia.

So, I ask again what the UK can and is doing to tackle this issue. Can the government prove that LGBT people really matter to their consciences, or will they confirm our suspicions that Same Sex Marriage was a political football, tossed aside once the home-game was over.  In the face of the humiliation, beatings, rape and torture of LGBT Russian’s, David Cameron has said he shares a “deep concern about the abuse of gay people in Russia” but did not back a boycott. Cameron claims that “we can better challenge prejudice as we attend” but will he stick to his word or get caught up in the excitement of Alpine Skiing before he gets a chance?

While we wait for the diplomats to weight up the value of making a stand, we can make small steps to influence their decisions and show solidarity with Russia. Whether or not you agree with a boycott, start by keeping in touch with Great Britain’s IOC members Princess Anne, Sir Craig Reedie, Sir Philip Craven, Adam Pengilly, and Dame Mary Alison Glen-Haig. Listen to what Russian activists have to say and therefore put your name to this petition.

Here in the UK the ‘quadruple lock’ on same sex marriage, the disregard for trans and intersex people, and the refusal to grant civil partnerships to all, add up to same sex marriage being a rather incomplete law, and it seems that the UK government’s support of LGBT Russians will be similarly piecemeal. ‘Equal’ marriage is certainly a step forward but many of the politicians who voted for it have proven themselves to be as populist as ever, and demonstrated that we share a much bigger problem in common with Russia, and that is the continued relationship between church and state, and the unnecessary legislation of peoples love and commitment.

What does same-sex marriage do for homeless queer youth? What does it do for the trans people being murdered in the streets? What does it do for the poor, of which many, many are queer people of color? Who does all this same-sex marriage stuff really benefit?

Until we stop giving value to certain kinds of relationships over others, until we stop projecting our personal values onto the lives of other consenting adults and making laws about it, until we stop being distracted by the crumbs that the few people in power throw at us so that we are too busy fighting over them to see that the actual pie is still forever off-limits to us, we’ll never break down these oppressive systems that let a few people through the door just so they can help hold it closed to the masses of people still being kept on the other side.

mia mckenzie, black girl dangerous.