The Victory Institute joined with Gay, Lesbian and Allies Senate Staff (GLASS) Caucus, theÂ LGBT Congressional Staff Association,Â Library of Congress GLOBE and the LGBT Equality CaucusÂ to host the Congressional LGBT Pride Reception at Rayburn House Office Building on Wednesday. Speakers included Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.) and Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.). (Washington Blade photos by Damien Salas) Â
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Representatives Polis, Cicilline, Malone and more share their feelings immediately after marriage decisions come down.
U.S. Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) and David Cicilline (D-R.I.) on Monday criticized Russiaâ€™s LGBT rights record during a Center for Global Equality reception on Capitol Hill.
â€śI strongly believe that every person deserves to live a life that is free from persecution and harassment and I am committed to guaranteeing the full enjoyment of universal rights for all members of LGBT community,â€ť Ros-Lehtinen said. â€śUnfortunately, the situation in Russia for the LGBT community has been rapidly deteriorating.â€ť
The Florida Republican criticized the Kremlin for passing a law that bans gay propaganda to minors and other laws she maintains â€śrestrict free speech and free association of LGBT individuals.â€ť Ros-Lehtinen also blasted Russian lawmakers who are reportedly seeking to remove children of gay and lesbian parents from their homes.
â€śThe actions of an increasingly hostile Russian government takes the country far backwards in time, just as much of the world is moving forward towards tolerance and equality,â€ť Ros-Lehtinen said. â€śNo government ought to be able to dictate who we love. And no government ought to be able to use children as pawns to punish those who are different.â€ť
Cicilline, who is gay, categorized the Kremlinâ€™s LGBT rights record as â€śone part of a much bigger human rights problemâ€ť in the country.
â€śIt was really sponsored or authorized or approved by government actors in a really profoundly different way,â€ť Cicilline said. â€śWe see experiences like this around the world where organizations or individuals are engaging in bad behavior, but this I think was very different and I think really requires our full attention.â€ť
The Center for Global Equality reception took place against the backdrop of mounting outrage over Russiaâ€™s LGBT rights record that threatens to overshadow the 2014 Winter Olympics that will take place in Sochi, Russia, in February.
Actor and playwright Harvey Fierstein is among those who have called for a boycott of the Sochi games. Author Dan Savage, Cleve Jones and other LGBT rights advocates have called for a boycott of Russian vodka.
President Obama, who met with two Russian LGBT rights activists last month during the G-20 summit in St. Petersburg, is among those who oppose any effort to boycott the Sochi games. He, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) have repeatedly criticized Russian President Vladimir Putin and his government over its LGBT rights record.
International Olympic Commission President Thomas Bach on Sunday said before the lighting of the Olympic torch in Greece that Olympic values include â€śrespect without any form of discrimination.â€ť
U.S. Olympic Committee CEO Scott Blackmun in August told RIA Novosti, an online Russian newspaper, that American athletes should comply with the laws of the countries in which they compete. USOC spokesperson Patrick Sandusky later sought to clarify Blackmunâ€™s comments by tweeting Russiaâ€™s gay propaganda law is â€śinconsistent with fundamental Olympic principles.â€ť
Sandusky added in the same tweet that the USOC has â€śshared our view with the IOC.â€ť
LGBT rights advocates in the U.S. and around the world last week expressed outrage after IOC Coordination Commission Chair Jean-Claude Killy appeared to suggest the statute does not violate the Olympic Charter.
Ros-Lehtinen, who met with Russian LGBT rights advocate Igor Kochetkov and two other gay activists from Ukraine and Georgia last month, criticized the USOC during a brief interview with the Washington Blade after she spoke at the Council for Global Equality reception.
â€śThe U.S. Olympic Committee has been complicit in this act of aggression because they say we respect Russiaâ€™s right to do this,â€ť the Florida Republican said. â€śThat is not worthy of Olympic standards.â€ť
Ros-Lehtinen and gay California Congressman Mark Takano continue to seek additional signatories for a letter they plan to send to the USOC that asks it to explain the steps it plans to take to ensure the safety of American athletes who plan to compete in the Sochi games. She applauded both Obama and Kerry for publicly criticizing Putin over his governmentâ€™s LGBT rights record, but she suggested to the Blade they can do more to respond to concerns over athletes and others who will travel to Russia for the games.
â€śItâ€™s up to the U.S. to step up,â€ť Ros-Lehtinen said. â€ś[It is] time to step up and tell Putin what you think so he knows that the eyes of the world are upon Russia.â€ť
The USOC did not immediately respond to the Bladeâ€™s request for comment on Ros-Lehtinenâ€™s criticisms.
The Gay & Lesbian Victory Institute held a celebration at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center on Friday. (Washington Blade photos by Michael Key)
A record number of lesbian, gay and bisexual candidates were elected to the U.S. House this year, nearly doubling the number of out representatives serving in the lower chamber of Congress.
Gay Reps. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) and David Cicilline (D-R.I.) won re-election, and on the same night, out candidates Sean Patrick Maloney of New York, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, Mark Takano of California and Mark Pocan of Wisconsin won their races. The new additions â€” minus Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), who are leaving the U.S. House â€” means LGB representation in the chamber will jump from four lawmakers to seven.
Maloney, who will be the first openly gay U.S. House member from New York, said upon the announcement that he won his bid to unseat Rep. Nan Hayworth (R-N.Y.) that voters in the state’s 18th congressional district voted for change.
â€śAcross four counties on two sides of the Hudson River, in hundreds of schools, firehouses, community centers, in the Democratic vote of a quarter million of our neighbors, the people have settled this debate,” Maloney said. “They have closed this campaign.”
Sinema will become the first openly bisexual member of Congress and Takano will become the first openly gay person of color to have a House seat. Pocan’s election means Wisconsin’s 2nd congressional district will maintain gay representation as Baldwin heads to the U.S. Senate.