SOCHI, Russia (CBSNewYork/AP) — Russian President Vladimir Putin says gays should feel welcome at the upcoming Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, but they must “leave the children in peace.”
Putin told volunteers Friday that gays visiting Sochi “can feel calm and at ease,” and vowed that there would be no discrimination at the games. But he emphasized that, according to a law banning homosexual “propaganda” among minors, gays cannot express their views on gay rights issues to anyone underage.
“What, are we supposed to follow along like obedient lapdogs, towards whatever consequences await?” Putin added, according to The Guardian. “We have our own traditions, our own culture. We have respect for all of our international partners and ask that they also respect our own traditions and culture.”
Putin and other politicians have defended the June propaganda law as a protection of child rights, but critics believe that the law discriminates against sexual minorities.
In the wake of international outcry against the bill, Russian authorities have put limits on the right to protest during the Sochi games, which run Feb. 7-23.
President Barack Obama is sending three openly gay athletes — Billie Jean King, Brian Boitano and Caitlin Cahow — in the official U.S. delegation. Obama won’t be attending the games, nor will Michelle Obama or Vice President Joe Biden.
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