Putin: Gays at Olympics won't be harmed, unless they talk to children

Jamie Squire

Gay Olympic attendees may be left alone by the government, but no one is asking Putin about cracking down on the gangs that are attacking gay people with seemingly little consequence.

Russian President Vladamir Putin has incited more criticism from people across the Internet today after again clearly stating Russia's new anti-gay policies.

First, he said that being gay and gay relationships are not illegal in Russia, and gay Olympics attendees will not be bothered:

We aren't banning anything, we aren't rounding up anyone, we have no criminal punishment for such relations, unlike many other countries. One can feel relaxed and at ease, but please leave the children in peace.

I've been to countries where homosexuality is actually illegal, one of them being the Islamic Maldives. My partner and I walked around the capital together for an afternoon and weren't harassed in any way. I imagine it will be the same in Sochi.

Russia is not one of those countries. While activists have tried to say that being gay is illegal in Russia, it is not. Period. They need to stop saying it is -- it trivializes the real issues at hand.

Still, the one difference that someone needs to ask Putin about is the power of the anti-gay gangs in Russia. It's one thing for the government to leave gay people alone; It seems they're leaving these thugs alone as well, giving them the freedom to attack gay people at will. A journalist worth his paycheck will ask Putin about cracking down on these gangs, not about enforcing laws Russia doesn't have on the books.

Second, Putin reiterated the law banning "gay propaganda" for children:

We have a ban on the propaganda of homosexuality and paedophilia. I want to underline this. Propaganda among children. These are absolutely different things - a ban on something or a ban on the propaganda of that thing.

The problem is, no one can be sure what "propaganda" is. If two men hold hands no the street and a child sees it, is that propaganda? One very vocal LGBT activist in Russia is also a school teacher -- yet because he does not talk to the children about being gay, he is left alone. The lack of clarity in the law and the definition of "propaganda" is deliberate and gives the Russian government legal wiggle room to do pretty much whatever they want.

So while Putin spoke very clearly about these things -- there is still some lack of clarity.

George Stephanopolous interviewed Putin today for the Jan. 19 episode of his "This Week" show on ABC.

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