Tag Archives: All Out

International Olympic Committee May Join Russia in Punishing Gay Athletes

12 Aug
Openly Gay Olympic New Zealand Speed Skater Blake Skjellerup

Openly Gay Olympic New Zealand Speed Skater Blake Skjellerup

Most of you know what’s been going on between the Stoli boycotts and statements from athletes around the world with regards to the Olympics and anti-gay, draconian Russian laws.

For those who don’t, the short version is this: earlier this year, Russia passed some horrifically anti-gay laws making it illegal to “promote” homosexuality. Apparently you can BE gay, you just can’t ever tell anyone about it for fear you’ll be reported and go to prison. These laws have given cover to Neo-Nazi groups and others to take the law into their own hands by beating and murdering any person they think doesn’t measure up to their standard of heterosexuality.

Many have called on the Olympics to make strong statements against these laws and some have even called them to move the 2103 Winter Olympics out of Sochi to a place more accepting of all athletes.

The International Olympic Committee began by assuring athletes and fans that they’d spoken to Russian authorities and that Sochi athletes and fans would be exempt from the law.

Not so fast, said Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko, making it clear that athletes and fans must respect the host country’s bigoted law.

Playing a media game of ping-pong, it’s left Olympic participants without any actual information regarding the situation in Russia. The truth of the matter is that no matter what kinds of assurances are made, LGBT people are not welcome and not safe in Russia. The IOC can say whatever they want to, but it will not stop some thug in a bar from kidnapping, beating and potentially murdering someone they perceive as gay.

Today, instead of actually standing up for LGBT athletes, the IOC is essentially siding with Russia and now warning lesbian and gay athletes.

Under rule 50 of the IOC’s charter: ‘No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas.’

Gay Star News had asked what the global Olympic chiefs thought about plans for athletes to wear rainbow pins or hold hands during the opening and closing ceremonies.

They also asked if the IOC would provide a safe space – or Pride House – for LGBT athletes, spectators, dignitaries and others during the games to celebrate gay sport and community, as has been done in previous years.

But their spokeswoman told us: ‘Regarding your suggestions, the IOC has a clear rule laid out in the Olympic Charter (Rule 50) which states that the venues of the Olympic Games are not a place for proactive political or religious demonstration.

‘This rule has been in place for many years and applied when necessary.’

With this report, the IOC has made it clear that they have a double standard when it comes to accepting all athletes. The Pride House in Vancouver was historic in that it provided a safe space for LGBT athletes from around the world. The IOC clearly didn’t see this as a violation of Rule 50 a few years ago, but it seems as though athletes must now be forced to step back into the closet for the 2013 Sochi Olympics.

Despite confusing messages from the IOC, today Russia’s Interior Ministry has unequivocally stated that they will be enforcing their anti-gay law during the 2013 Sochi Olympic games.

Either way, if the Olympics remain in Sochi, LGBT athletes are automatically at a disadvantage. It’s really hard to perform to one’s full capabilities when one is spending part or most of their day in actual fear for their lives.

Out gay New Zealand speedskater Blake Skjellerup, told USA TODAY:

“I don’t want to have to tone myself down about who I am,” Skjellerup said. “That wasn’t very fun and there’s no way I’m going back in the closet. I just want to be myself and I hate to think that being myself would get me in trouble.”

I don’t think you’ll find a single athlete out there who’d disagree with the notion that you perform better when you don’t have to hide who you are. In fact, many said as much when basketball player Jason Collins came out last year.

At this point, I can’t imagine there is anything IOC can say to actually ensure the safety of their participants or fans – whether it be from the actual Russian government or vigilantes who are rarely if ever prosecuted for their crimes against LGBT people. While boycotts and news stories have been effective at getting the word out about the atrocities being carried out against LGBT people, none of this will actually make anyone safer in Russia. And none of it will stop LGBT athletes from constantly having to look over their shoulder as they compete for Olympic gold.
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UPDATE: Is DOMA Sinking? AG Holder Vacates Gay Deportation Case

5 May

While Organizations like ALL OUT and GetEQUAL are pushing to stop tomorrow’s deportation of Henry Valendia, thus tearing him away from his legal marriage with Joshua Vandiver, it seems Attorney General Eric Holder is taking further steps to discredit the ant-gay Defense of Marriage Act.

According to Chris Geidner at Metroweekly, AG Holder has vacated a decision made by a Board of Immigration Appeals decision.

Holder writes:

“Pursuant to my authority set forth in 8 C.F.R. § 1003.1(h)(1)(i), I order that the decision of the Board of Immigration Appeals (“Board”) in this case applying Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (“DOMA”), 1 U.S.C. § 7, be vacated, and that this matter be referred to me for review.”

Geidner continues:

Saying the attorney general “has taken [an] extraordinary step” with the decision, attorney Eric Berndt — the supervising attorney for the National Asylum Partnership on Sexual Minorities at the National Immigrant Justice Center — told Metro Weekly, “It adds some heft to our requests for prosecutorial discretion in individual cases in which the foreign partner” of a same-sex bi-national couple is seeking a green card because of his or her citizen same-sex partner.

Holder goes on to state four questions that he directs the BIA to consider:

In the exercise of my review authority under that regulation, and upon consideration of the record in this case, I direct that the order of the Board be vacated and that this matter be remanded to the Board to make such findings as may be necessary to determine whether and how the constitutionality of DOMA is presented in this case, including, but not limited to: 1) whether respondent’s same-sex partnership or civil union qualifies him to be considered a “spouse” under New Jersey law; 2) whether, absent the requirements of DOMA, respondent’s same-sex partnership or civil union would qualify him to be considered a “spouse” under the Immigration and Nationality Act; 3) what, if any, impact the timing of respondent’s civil union should have on his request for that discretionary relief; and 4) whether, if he had a “qualifying relative,” the respondent would be able to satisfy the exceptional and unusual hardship requirement for cancellation of removal.

This could be extraordinary news, considering Holder’s specific questions. It’s apparent from his requests to the BIA that state’s rights may be violated by DOMA, considering his mention of “New Jersey law.” Let us hope this is good news for Joshua and Henry (who is set for deportation tomorrow).

There is a rally scheduled for tomorrow in Newark from 11-12am – Department of Homeland Security/Newark Immigration Court – Peter Rodino Federal Building, 970 Broad Street, Newark, NJ. Please attend if you can and also please visit ALL OUT’s Petition to help stop this cruel punishment for a couple whose only crime was getting married.

***************UPDATE********************

According to Metroweekly’s Chris Geidner:

Attorney Lavi Soloway tells Metro Weekly that Henry Velandia’s deportation proceedings have been adjourned, in part, because of Attorney General Eric Holder’s decision to vacate the Board of Immigration Appeals decision in another case involving a same-sex couple on Thursday. Moreover, Soloway says, “The government attorney agreed to adjourn the case.”

This is excellent news and proves that when we rally and get people to join together around something, we can win. Please keep this in mind and kep working hard when we ware called to action. We CAN make a difference!

Purpose.com Goes ALL OUT for Equality

8 Dec

Last week, I had the pleasure of attending a launch party for one of the most exciting campaigns I’ve seen for LGBT Equality.

We have spent years in this country fighting hard for our equality and to see how far we’ve come when we take a step back and gain a little perspective, it’s astounding. All Out, a new campaign brought to us by the progressively-minded Purpose.com, promises to give us just that – perspective.

All Out has the potential to be one of the most important international LGBT campaigns we have. From their offices:

In 2011 and beyond All Out will be rolling out a variety of creative campaigns and interventions to push the cultural needle towards greater LGBT equality and self-determination, as well as hard-hitting campaigns that will challenge human rights abuses against LGBT communities and individuals around the world. The more support we can build up now, the more wind we’ll have behind our sails when All Out starts running campaigns in 2011.

76 countries make it a crime to be gay or transgender, and in 10, you can still be sentenced to death or life in prison. In many others—including the United States—the ability to work, raise a family and love who you choose free from the threat of violence or state sanctioned discrimination is still a distant reality. History is slowly moving in the direction of greater equality. Let’s work together to push that change forward, faster.

Please watch this incredible launch video they’ve put together and visit their site and facebook page to start getting updates on their great work and find out how you can get involved!

Enjoy some photos from last week’s All Out Launch Party at Purpose.com’s new offices!

Jeremy Heimans

Jeremy Heimans, CEO & Co-Founder and Andre Banks of Purpose.com

Brian Ellner and Jeremy Heimans

Joseph Huff-Hannon and Wesley Adams of Purpose.com

All photos copyright Jamie McGonnigal, TalkAboutEquality.com