Russia downplays gay law's effect on Olympics

Aug. 18, 2013 at 11:50 AM
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MOSCOW, Aug. 18 (UPI) -- Russia's sports minister said the nation's controversial legislation on homosexuals was meant to protect impressionable youth.

Vitaly Mutko said Sunday the law does not take away anyone's civil rights, but instead prohibits the promotion of homosexuality to minors, similar to restrictions on promoting drinking and drugs.

"I should like to clarify once again, this law does not deprive any citizen of their rights, whether it's an athlete, a participant, an organizer or guests who may arrive in Russia," said Mutko.

The international uproar has led to calls for protests and even boycotts of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. The RIA Novosti news agency said the Kremlin had yet to clarify what exactly defined unlawful promotion of homosexual lifestyle.

The debate has been complicated by potential gestures by Olympic athletes to show support for the gay community, which could possibly be interpreted as unlawful. A Swedish athlete at the ongoing IAAF Track and Field World Championships in Moscow had painted her fingernails in rainbow colors for the meet, but was ordered by the IAAF to switch to red polish to comply with its rules banning political statements.

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