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Should the U.S. boycott next year's Olympics?

September 23, 2013 - Andrea Johnson
Should the United States boycott the Olympic games in Russia next year because of Russia's anti-gay laws?

There seems to be some talk about a potential boycott, though others say that a protest at the Olympics itself might be more effective. Russia has passed laws banning the so-called promotion of homosexuality to minors. The law is vague and likely could result in the arrest of someone who held up a sign saying "Homosexuality is normal" at a protest rally. A number of gays and lesbians in Russia have been fired from their jobs and others are now afraid to speak out in public.

Russia has banned the adoption of Russian children by people from countries where gay marriage is legal. One bill under discussion there would remove children from the custody of gay and lesbian parents in Russia. According to Alternet, the number of hate attacks by skinheads and others against gays in Russia have also increased. Gay Russian journalist Masha Gessen, quoted in a story by Adam Lee at Alternet, called on the United States to offer gay Russians political asylum.

Lee also reports disapprovingly on the number of Americans from conservative Christian groups who have expressed approval of Russia's laws. Apparently some evangelicals and conservative Catholics think it sounds like a good idea to force gays to the very back of the closet and avoid public discussion of gay rights.

As a journalist and as an American, I will always back the side of freedom of speech and freedom of expression, neither of which Russia exemplifies. There are some aspects of gay culture that I don't necessarily like or approve of – you won't find me at one of the more flamboyant gay pride parades, for example, or cheering on promiscuity by either gays or straights – but I don't have to attend a gay pride parade or approve of anyone's behavior any more than they approve of mine. In a free society, people are free to live and express themselves in the ways that they choose. I am disturbed by people who would be in favor of such restrictive laws.

But does it warrant a boycott of the Olympics, which would punish athletes who have been training their whole lives for their one moment of glory? I'm not sure that it would do any good.


Article Comments



Sep-25-13 11:49 AM

The teachings of the Catholic Church have stayed pretty much the same for thousands of years. There are probably more Catholics now who don't know what the Church actually teaches or who choose to ignore those teachings when it's convenient.


Sep-24-13 10:42 AM

The Olympics isn't about the athletes anymore, it's about money. The IOC walks away from every Olympics making millions while leaving the host cities in massive debt. The IOC has sued everyone and there grandmother, they've even threatened to sue the Special Olympics. Also, marriage is not a Christianity thing, the ancient Sumerians, Egyptians, Chinese, and many other cultures had marriage before Christianity even existed.


Sep-24-13 8:40 AM

ummmm... Isn't each country entitled to its own opinions? Why should we boycott? I don't think the lgbt community would want to force their lifestyle on people and I don't believe our country should force its opinion on another country especially due to the fact that our country really doesn't have an opinion one way or the other.


Sep-23-13 10:47 PM

Olympics is not a political statement. Olympics is about young athletes dedicating their lives for a chance to compete with the best and come home with a medal. That is what Olympics is. Why take that once or twice in a life time chance away from them?


Sep-23-13 5:32 PM

Another possibility is that the Catholic girl and Lutheran boy were married in the Lutheran church. Catholics are not allowed to have a non-Catholic marriage ceremony. In a stricter era, I could see her being excommunicated under those circumstances.


Sep-23-13 5:29 PM

My Catholic grandfather and my grandmother, who was a member of an obscure Protestant church, were married with a dispensation from the bishop. My Protestant father married my Catholic mother in the Catholic Church. Both the Protestant spouses had to promise that the children would be raised Catholic before the ceremony was allowed. The Catholic Church no longer requires that, but the Catholic spouse has to promise to try to raise the child Catholic and the non-Catholic spouse needs to be aware of the Catholic's promise. It's possible that the Catholic girl was excommunicated under those circumstances, but probably only because she didn't go through proper channels. There have been many interfaith and interdenominational marriages involving Catholics for centuries.


Sep-23-13 5:25 PM

Twenty-one states and the District of Columbia presently prevent businesses that hold themselves out as providing a service to the public from discriminating against customers on the basis of sexual orientation. Other states have public accommodation laws, requiring any business that advertises its services to offer services equally to its customers. North Dakota specifically prohibits discrimination on the basis of person's race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age (forty or older), physical or mental disability, marital status, or receipt of public assistance. That doesn't apply to strictly private clubs or other private establishment or facility, so long as it doesn't offer a public service or goods for a fee.


Sep-23-13 4:49 PM

We can discuss the First Amendment's protection of the right to freely associate in some other thread.


Sep-23-13 4:26 PM

I think any business that refused to serve someone who's black would be slapped with a discrimination suit, particularly if they provide a valued service in the community. I also think it's inappropriate for a small town pharmacy to refuse to provide birth control, to use a religious-based example. In some areas of North Dakota, that pharmacy might be the only one for 40 or more miles. Especially if it is a business that receives federal or state money or is licensed by the state, they should not be permitted to refuse service on the basis of religion, race or sexual orientation. Religious organizations ought to be exempt, but not religious affiliates that serve the public in a non-religious capacity.


Sep-23-13 4:16 PM

Back to the question: should the US boycott next year's Olympics? No. If certain individuals wish to boycott, there shouldn't be anyone to stop them from it.


Sep-23-13 4:10 PM

"I don't favor allowing businesses to refuse to provide a service to gays on the basis of their religious beliefs, any more than they should be allowed not to serve someone on the basis of race or gender."

I vehemently disagree with this. There are plenty of small businesses that post on their walls "we reserve the right to refuse service to anyone." So gay persons shouldn't have to face hurdles of any kind to get married? And they're willing to litigate to get the social results they desire? Phooey. They should be willing to look and find the businesses willing to work with them. Forcing businesses to violate their own religious or moral or whatever codes smacks of reverse discrimination, like my code's better than your code. Stinks.


Sep-23-13 3:57 PM

As for not allowing two different religions to marry ... not true. There was heavy familial and social disapproval under some circumstances, but as far as I know it has never been illegal for a man and a woman of two different faiths to marry in the United States. My grandparents belonged to different churches but they were able to marry in a Catholic ceremony (probably with a dispensation). That was before your day. I also think interracial marriage was permitted in most states by the end of the 1960s, at the latest. I do think gay marriage is likely to be legal in all 50 states within my lifetime and polygamous marriage might be decriminalized. I don't think the sky will fall when it does.


Sep-23-13 3:54 PM

So I take it billdoesn'tgetit doesn't think we should boycott the Olympics.


Sep-23-13 3:32 PM

As far as I know it's still legal to say you don't approve of gay marriage or homosexuality, etc., and it's also legal to say you do and to have a gay pride parade (with appropriate permits.) The opposition that we are seeing more is the heavy weight of social disapproval brought to bear against people who are against gay marriage by certain influential people and institutions in the media and academia and elsewhere. People don't have the right to have people agree with or approve of their opposition to gay marriage, but they do have a right to express that view. In Russia, apparently gays are actively being persecuted and are in danger of losing their lives.


Sep-23-13 3:16 PM

What I don't understand is why can't someone say they don't approve of homosexuality and also say they don't approve of using the government to hassle people over it? Where did we get this idea that if we don't agree with something, it needs to be banned or made illegal?

I swear it, 90% of politics is all about getting "those people" and making their lives as much a PTA as possible...


Sep-23-13 2:52 PM

I will also continue to stand by the rights of religious conservatives who object to gay marriage or gay adoption, etc. on the basis of their religious beliefs. I don't favor allowing businesses to refuse to provide a service to gays on the basis of their religious beliefs, any more than they should be allowed not to serve someone on the basis of race or gender.

But one of the reasons I do favor gay marriage it that I think it will lead to greater stability in society. People who are married are more likely to be home owners, to have health insurance, to belong to the PTA or be active in community organizations, to raise kids in a two-parent household, are hopefully a bit less likely to have multiple sexual partners, etc. Russia's policy seems far more likely to encourage fringe behavior and, unfortunately, suicides and self harm by young gay teens.


Sep-23-13 2:40 PM

Problem is, it's becoming increasingly difficult to be tolerated even if you merely "disapprove".

That said, boycotting the Olympics is utterly pointless, a useless gesture. Example: did the Soviets leave Afghanistan because we boycotted the Olympics?


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