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The North Wind

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Megan Voorhees
Megan Voorhees
Assistant News Editor

Hi! I’m Megan Voorhees and I’m the Assistant News Editor at The Northwind! I was first introduced to journalism my sophomore year of high school and I’ve been in love with the profession and writing...

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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Dallas WiertellaApril 30, 2024

United States hypocritical regarding Sochi

The 2014 Olympic Winter games in Sochi and the Russian government have been subject to criticism regarding domestic policies affecting their LGBTQ communities.

Mitchell Sevigny
Mitchell Sevigny

An Olympic games boycott has been demanded by human rights activists, LGBTQ communities and Russian activists living in the United States. There was a rumor the United States was going to have a gay athlete be flag bearer during the Sochi opening ceremonies to ruffle Russia’s feathers.

These concerns about Russian domestic policy brings into question whether or not the United States is justified in a potential boycott of the Olympic Games. The last time the United States protested the Olympics we joined 65 other nations in boycotting the 1980 Moscow games in protest of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

The Soviet Union and other Eastern bloc nations responded by boycotting the 1984 Olympic Games in Atlanta, citing U.S. involvement in the Middle East and anti-Soviet rhetoric in the U.S.

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In 2008, many congresspeople, including Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, urged President Bush to boycott the Beijing Games citing human rights abuses in China. Ultimately, no nation boycotted. Given the only time the United States participated in a boycott revolved around Soviet aggression in Afghanistan, a significant precedent exists regarding the Sochi boycott.

Boycotting for conflicts and human rights abuses are valid reasons, but how can the United States boycott Russia for discriminating against LGBTQs when many of the states here also discriminate against LGBTQs?  Maybe it’s because Russia is a long-time rival and former enemy of the United States, and for this the U.S. feels justified in taking a stand on foreign abuses of LGBTQ rights even though we struggle with the topic.

Maybe the United States sees this as a way of getting back at Russia for harboring Edward Snowden or for comments from Russian President Vladimir Putin on U.S. involvement in Syria. Or maybe the United States feels the need to be a crusader of human rights and equality. Considering recent and past conflicts with Russia, the United States is not justified to protest the Sochi games on the basis of LGBTQ rights.

Many people view discrimination against LGBTQ communities the same way people view discrimination against races, genders and religions. This is true in the United States where the LGBTQ community is fighting for marriage equality and equal rights daily. Under Russian legislation, it is illegal to spread “homosexual propaganda,” so simply talking about gay marriage is grounds for arrest in Russia.

The Russian LGBTQ community is subject to torment by other Russian citizens, but I’m certain that many LGBTQs receive the same treatment here by organizations like the Westboro Baptist Church. The Russian government is still skeptical of Western campaigns and sees them as puppets trying to influence Russian sovereignty. This has led to a conservative surge in Russia and a traditionalist rise in the Russian Orthodox Church.

This sounds like the Tea Party and conservative movements in the United States.According to polls, the majority Russian of citizens support anti-gay legislation. According to Gallup polls, 52 percent of Americans think gay marriage should be legal. Russia is just a different place than the United States.

It would be hypocritical of the United States to criticize Russia regarding LGBTQ rights when we pass laws like the Defense of Marriage Act. U.S. and Russian policies differ, but there are similarities. The Russian government took a national stance, while there is a lot of ambiguity in the United States. In the 1968 Summer Olympics, two athletes raised black gloves during the National Anthem in solidarity with both the domestic civil rights movement and human rights broadly.

While Russia is committed to its current legislation and mindset, these policies can be changed by dedication and simple actions of solidarity by citizens, athletes and administrators, like in 1968. Before the United States takes a stand on LGBTQ rights abroad, they must first take a stand here.

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