As Winter Olympics close, students still flustered by Russia’s anti-LGBTQ legislation


By Sarah Smith |

The Winter Olympics are anticipated every four years, but this year LGBTQ athletes and Flagler College students are getting the cold shoulder from host country Russia.

Last summer Russian President Vladimir Putin signed anti-gay legislation that bans homosexual propaganda among minors and the adoption of Russian-born children to gay couples or couples living in a country where same-sex marriage exists.

Opinions about the law were not constrained to the borders of Russia. The legislation was met with outcry from countries around the world and outrage gained speed through social media as the 22nd Winter Olympics began.

Nicholas Droleski, graphic design major at Flagler College, has watched the Olympics before and is dismayed by Russia’s view on homosexuality.

“I’m appalled at the amount of hate and distaste people feel towards others based on a small aspect of their life,” Droleski said.

He is not alone. Companies such as AT&T, Chobani and Google have displayed less than subtle animosity towards Russia’s legislation. The companies have spoken out against the law and posted images containing rainbows.

Kayleigh Gades, president of Club Unity, a club on campus for LGBTQ Flagler College students, is happy to see support from such large organizations.

“For many people, especially young people struggling with their sexual orientation and even many who have come to terms with their identity, the world can seem like a very lonely place,” Gades said.

Safety is also a concern for athletes who ventured into Russia. In 2013, there were two killings in Russia motivated by homophobic sentiments. The United States has three openly gay athletes that are competing in the games this year, raising concern about the safety of those competing.

Though Droleski opposes Russia’s ideas on homosexuality, he doesn’t think the Olympics should have been held somewhere that is friendlier to the LGBTQ community.

“It is a time of unity. When facing this hate and discrimination it is not right to run from it. Instead, we should be uniting to face this head on,” Droleski said

Brandon Waller, a secondary English education major, thinks that the United States should look at its own policies and laws before criticizing other countries. Waller cites a bill that Kansas recently passed that will allow refusal of services to gay couples.

“I feel sympathy for those who have been oppressed by Putin’s regime,” Waller said. “I also believe that it is important to note that we deal with similar issues in our own country. We should make our own nation a shining example of equality before we think about criticizing another country’s political stance.”

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