Winter Olympics 2014: Norway’s Health Minister to take his husband to Paralympics
When Norway’s Health Minister arrives in Sochi as his country’s official representative at the Winter Paralympics, he knows who he wants by his side as he cheers on the national team. “It’s natural to take Dag Terje along when attending this type of event,” Bent Høie he told Norwegian media this week, referring to his husband, Dag Terje Solvang.
Bringing one’s spouse to a sporting event should indeed be an unremarkable event, but the Sochi Winter Olympics begin on Friday amid a chorus of condemnation over new laws in Russia seen as discriminating against the gay and lesbian community. So the attendance of a happily married same-sex couple openly speaking about their relationship sends a powerful signal.
“Everyone understands what two men who are married think about gay rights,” Mr Høie told the Stavanger Aftenblad newspaper.
Activists and members of Russia’s gay community will be hoping for more expressions of support over the coming weeks as the spotlight falls on the country for the Winter Games. Protesters took to the streets of 19 cities around the world today to urge sponsors to condemn laws against “gay propaganda” signed by President Vladimir Putin last July.
The legislation criminalises the act of providing information about homosexuality to anyone under 18. Members of the gay community say the broad wording leaves it open to interpretation and in effect bans public support for gay rights. The United Nations committee on children’s rights has urged Russia to repeal the law, warning that the “vague definitions of propaganda leads to the targeting and ongoing persecution of the country’s [gay] community, including abuse and violence.”
AT&T, the telecoms giant and US Olympic Committee sponsor, became the first big American company to respond to calls for support from the All Out activist group, publishing a blog condemning “violence, discrimination and harassment” against the gay and lesbian community.
Protesters in London joined 19 cities around the world yesterday in speaking out against Russia’s anti-gay laws (EPA)
Activists hope to convince other sponsors, including McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, Visa and Samsung to issue similar denunciations. “These brands have spent millions to align themselves with the Olympics, but have repeatedly refused to support the Games’ founding principles,” said Andre Banks of the All Out campaign.
While some activists are calling for a boycott of the Games, world leaders and politicians have deployed different tactics to express their dismay at the rolling back of gay rights. David Cameron, the French President François Hollande and Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel have all turned down their invitations to Sochi, but have not explicitly linked their snub to the controversial laws.
The EU’s Justice Commissioner, Viviane Reding, made clear on her Twitter account that she would not go “as long as minorities are treated the way they are”. President Barack Obama, meanwhile, sent a clear message when he announced he would skip the games but was sending two openly gay athletes – including the former tennis champion Billie Jean King – as part of the official US delegation.
New UK station Russia Today gives a very bizarre view of Britain
By performing as African Americans or Indians, white people get to play act a kind of 'imaginary liberation', writes Michael Mark Cohen
New essay by JK Rowling went live on Pottermore site this morning
Top Gear presenter is no stranger to foot-in-mouth controversy
Manchester City vs Manchester United combined XI: No place for Yaya Toure... or any United defenders
Sami Khedira transfer news: Arsenal can win the Premier League if they sign Khedira in January, says Perry Groves
Manchester City vs Manchester United analysis: Manuel Pellegrini has no excuse for City's lack of a Plan B, writes Danny Higginbotham
Chelsea injury list: Loic Remy lead the Blues' absent players while Diego Costa is set to return
Radamel Falcao: Manchester United ready to seal permanent transfer of striker as 'everything is complete' to extend his Old Trafford stay
- 1 Canadian actor punched in face after 'Islamophobia' experiment goes wrong in wake of Ottawa shooting
- 2 Topshop at centre of row over body image as 'shocking' skinny mannequin photo goes viral
- 3 Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson criticised for beer tweet
- 4 The bubble bursts for Sodastream
- 5 If you think Russell Brand’s new book is confused, you should read what his critics have to say about it
Pope Francis declares evolution and Big Bang theory are real and God is not 'a magician with a magic wand'
Huge surge in Ukip support after EU funding row, according to new poll
Ukip ‘exploiting grooming scandal’ to secure party’s first police chief
Nigel Farage: 'There’s nothing wrong with white people blacking up'
Maureen Lipman says 'she can't vote Labour while Ed Miliband is leader'
Muslims, immigration and teenage pregnancy: British people are ignorant about almost everything