Called a coward by Activists who demand he speak out against Russia’s Anti-LGBT laws when in Sochi
By Melanie Nathan, January 15, 2014,
Two members of Queer Nation confronted three-time Olympian, figure skater, Brian Boitano tonight, demanding he speak out against Russia’s recently enacted anti-LGBT laws when he represents the U.S. at the Olympics next month.
Boitano, who is one of three openly gay men and women chosen by President Barack Obama for the U.S. Olympic delegation, was appearing at New York’s Rubin Museum of Art in Chelsea as part of “Brainwave: Mind Over Matter,” an ongoing series that pairs men and women prominent in their various professions with psychologists, psychiatrists, and neurologists to discuss how the mind and brain work.
During his introduction of Boitano, Tim McHenry, the Rubin’s director of public programs and performance, spoke with admiration about how Brian Boitano had become “a courageous champion of human rights and artists.”
“When did he do that and what is it that he said?” shouted Duncan Osborne, one of the protesters. “He’s going to a country with a record of abusing human rights, especially the rights of gay men and women, and he has yet to speak out about it,” Osborne continued.
Boitano has as yet said nothing against Russia’s anti-LGBT laws, instead insisting that athletes and spectators respect the laws of the country they will be visiting. Tennis great Billie Jean King, who has also been chosen to represent the U.S. in Sochi, has been somewhat vocal about her disapproval of the Russian laws.
“Stand up and tell us what you are going to do what are you going to say in Russia,” yelled Jamie Bauer, the other protester from Queer Nation. Boitano remained seated and silent and refused to acknowledge the protesters.
“Two members of Pussy Riot were imprisoned for protesting their government’s human rights record, and when they were granted amnesty ahead of the Olympics promptly denounced the amnesty and organized a protest,” said Bauer after the protest. “We haven’t seen nearly that kind of courage from Brian Boitano, who has much less to risk.”
The audience was uniformly hostile to the protesters, and many booed. Two audience members attempted to remove Osborne but backed away when he threatened to have them arrested. The two Queer Nation activists were eventually led peacefully out of the room by security guards.
“You’re a coward,” Osborne yelled repeatedly as he was escorted away.
In June, the Russian government enacted legislation that effectively bans any pro-LGBT statement in public or private and on the Internet. In July, a law banning adoptions of Russian children by people from any jurisdiction that allows same sex marriage took effect.
A second recently enacted law bars adoption of Russian children by anyone living in a jurisdiction that allows same sex marriage. The Russian parliament recently proposed legislation that would allow the government to remove children from a household headed by a gay or lesbian parent. While that legislation has been withdrawn ahead of the Olympics, activists believe the parliament will reintroduce it after the Games are over.
The legislation’s passage has been followed by unprecedented, effectively state-sanctioned violence against LGBT people, who have been harassed, arrested, beaten, raped, tortured, and killed. Activists had called for a boycott of Sochi and for the Games to be moved from Russia, citing its abysmal human rights record, including its attacks on LGBT Russians.
“In the middle of gay white male New York, Boitano can’t find the courage to confront those laws?” said Osborne outside the museum. “That does not bode well for how he will behave in Sochi.”
The incident was the latest in a series of high-profile protests staged by Queer Nation to focus the world’s attention on Russia’s anti-LGBT laws and other human rights abuses. Other protests have included the disruption of the Metropolitan Opera’s Opening Night Gala and a performance at Carnegie Hall at which Valery Gergiev, a close associate of Vladimir Putin’s, was conducting; a demonstration on “Russia Day” at the New York Stock Exchange; and a protest against Olympic sponsor Coca-Cola in Times Square during which activists dumped Coke into the sewer.
Queer Nation is a direct action group dedicated to ending discrimination, violence and repression against the LGBT community. www.queernationny.org Twitter: @QueerNationNY
By Melanie Nathan, January 11, 2014. According to Media reports, Billie Jean King believes that standing up to discrimination is the best way to combat it, so she had no hesitation in joining the US delegation for the Sochi Olympics. I submit that it is how one stands up to it that determines the requisite […] READ MORE