North Texas Reps. Eddie Bernice Johnson and Marc Veasey are among 83 members of Congress who’ve signed a letter to Secretary of State John Kerry urging him to ensure the safety of LGBT athletes, coaches, staff, fans and reporters attending the 2014 Winter Olympics and Paralympics in Sochi, Russia.
The letter refers to a law by signed by President Vladimir Putin on June 30 under which public acknowledgement of one’s sexual orientation or support for LGBT rights, including displays of symbols such as a rainbow flag or HRC logo, can result in arrest and 15 days in jail.
The concern is over an announcement the law would be enforced during the Olympics.
Two other Texas congressmen also signed the letter — Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, and Rep. Al Green, D-Houston.
Noticeably absent from the list were Houston’s Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, who always scores high on HRC Congressional rankings and newcomers Rep. Beto O’Rourke, who worked for partner benefits while serving on the El Paso City Council, and Rep. Joaquin Castro, who won his seat with strong LGBT support in San Antonio.
The members of Congress are concerned with the rising wave of anti-gay activity in Russia including violent hate crimes and laws banning Pride parades for 100 years and limiting adoption of Russian children by people from countries that allow same-sex marriage.
Kerry has a long record of supporting the LGBT community. He was one of just 14 Senators who voted against the Defense of Marriage Act. Last week, in a speech at the embassy in London, he announced the U.S. would treat visa applications from married same-sex couples the same as opposite-sex couples.
Other signs of international protest of the new anti-gay law include a boycott of Russian alcohol. The New York City United Restaurant and Tavern Owners Association called on all bars, cafes, taverns and restaurants to ban all Russian-made food and alcohol. Locally, some bars have joined in a boycott of Stoli vodka.
The Canadian government issued a travel advisory on travel to Russia. Over the weekend, two Canadian Olympic athletes marched in Vancouver’s Pride parade to show support for the LGBT community in opposition to the law.
The Sochi games are seven months away.
Below is the full text of the letter: