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Frederick Center to honor LGBT ally

Lois Jarman, gay news, Washington Blade

Lois Jarman (Photo courtesy Jarman)

The Frederick Center is honoring Lois Jarman with Frederick’s 2013 LGBTQ Ally of the Year Award on Jan. 12. She will receive this award “because of her tireless efforts over the last decade on behalf of the LGBTQ community of central Maryland,” according Brian Walker, chair of the Frederick Center board.

Jarman founded the Central Maryland chapter of PFLAG in 2006, where she continues to be the chapter president. She has also been co-producer of the “A Little Song, A Little Dance” annual World AIDS Day benefit in Frederick for a dozen years, raising tens of thousands of dollars to benefit Positive Influence (a past Frederick-based HIV support organization), Baltimore Pediatric AIDS Fund, AIDS Response Effort out of Winchester (which now covers central Maryland), and various LGBT organizations.

Jarman has also been a resource for hundreds of LGBTQ students by being a visible ally in the local high school system and other educational institutions.

“This annual award allows us to recognize the efforts of a single person,” said Walker. “But this ceremony allows many community allies to gather to celebrate the work they have done collectively over time, and to hear first-hand how much it matters to the LGBTQ community.”

The event will take place between 3-6 p.m. at the home of Peter Brehm and John Michael Day, 318 West College Terrace in Frederick. A suggested donation of $15 for individuals and $25 for couples would benefit the Frederick Center. Beverages and light refreshments will be served.

For more information, visit thefrederickcenter.org.

07
Jan
2014

Nigerian police round up 100s of gays after everything gay is banned

A list of 168 suspected gays was obtained through torture one day after country passes draconian gay ban.

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14
Jan
2014

Russian anti-gay serial kidnapper Maxim Martsinkevich arrested in Cuba

After an 18 month spree of kidnapping and torturing gay and trans youth, Russia finally takes action.

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18
Jan
2014

TSA poised to change airport security for gay couples

César Zapata, Hunter Carter, gay news, Washington Blade

From left, César Zapata and Hunter Carter said American Airlines personnel at the Medellín, Colombia, airport separated them on Jan. 18 as they checked into their flight to Miami. (Photo courtesy of César Zapata)

The Washington Blade has learned the Transportation Security Administration is poised to allow same-sex couples to undergo pre-flight security screenings together in response to two recent incidents with American Airlines personnel at a Colombian airport.

Hunter Carter, a prominent same-sex marriage advocate in Latin America who said American Airlines personnel at the airport in the Colombian city of Medellín separated him and his husband, César Zapata, as they tried to check into their Miami-bound flight on Jan. 18, received an e-mail from Alec Bramlett, senior litigation attorney for the airline, on Wednesday afternoon.

“TSA has communicated to our Corporate Security folks that they are working on a technical change to its directive, and that pending that change, we can immediately begin screening same-sex spouses together,” wrote Bramlett in the e-mail the Blade obtained from Carter. “We are working on communicating this change in procedures to our stations ASAP.”

The TSA does not conduct airport security screenings outside the U.S.

A spokesperson with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which oversees TSA, with whom the Blade spoke on Wednesday could not immediately comment on the policy change. Witeck Communications President Bob Witeck, who frequently works with American Airlines, confirmed the content of Bramlett’s e-mail to Carter.

“It used to be that discrimination against same-sex couples who are LGBT people wasn’t newsworthy, but that has changed,” Carter told the Blade on Wednesday. “Today a major corporation and a government agency swiftly changed a legacy policy that was discriminatory and humiliating. Now when César and I fly we know we will not be flying as second-class passengers but on equal terms with all other married couples as is our legal right.”

Carter and Zapata are the second same-sex couple in less than two months to allege American Airlines personnel at the Medellín airport separated them as they tried to check into their U.S.-bound flight.

Ana Elisa Leiderman said an American Airlines ticket agent separated her from her wife, Verónica Botero, and their two small children as they tried to check into their Miami-bound flight on Dec. 13. A third gay couple — Tomás Georgi and Mark Cline — told the Blade late on Wednesday they experienced a similar experience on Dec. 1 as they tried to check into their American Airlines flight from Buenos Aires, Argentina, to New York.

“I was told to get back to the end of the line when I protested,” said Georgi. “As a native of Argentina, I was fully able to discern the distain and anti-gay sentiment with which I was treated.”

Georgi told the Blade another gate agent whom he asked to allow him to board his flight with his partner “dismissed” him “callously.”

“Not until I insisted again and drew the attention of the 100 or so fellow passengers was I permitted to join my partner who was waiting for me on the jet way after being physically separated from me and searched,” said Georgi. “The staff, which had originally prohibited me from joining my partner, hurled snide remarks at me as I walked past them to join him.”

An American Airlines spokesperson told the Blade on Jan. 10 the company regrets “the circumstances” that Leiderman “faced with her spouse and family” while traveling from Colombia to the U.S. The spokesperson added airport personnel in Medellín “followed existing security screening rules mandated by the” TSA.

Georgi provided the Blade an e-mail he received from Stefania Meyer of American Airlines on Dec. 16 that noted, among other things, the company has received a 100 percent score on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index for nine consecutive years. The letter also said the men would each receive a $96 refund for seat upgrades they purchased for their flight from Argentina.

“Our customers should always experience polite and efficient service from our employees, regardless of the circumstances,” wrote Meyer. “Your comments regarding the lack of professionalism on the part of our gate staff is of significant concern to us. Please accept our apologies for the poor agent demeanor and other problems you and Mr. Cline encountered that day.”

The letter made no mention of TSA security screening policy. Georgi said American Airlines Director of Customer Relations Tim Rhodes “dismissed my complaints as the fault of TSA and took no responsibility” for the alleged incident during a telephone call he said he received from him on Jan. 6.

“What I cannot get over is the reaction of the head of customer service,” Georgi told the Blade. “He explained to me that it is difficult to read peoples’ intentions. However, I speak Spanish fluently, I was born in [Buenos Aires,] I could read the intentions of the American Airlines staff very clearly, especially when I was told to go to the back of the line.”

23
Jan
2014

Being gay isn`t a choice, bad journalism is

The New Republic is the latest publication to use a gay gay-basher to gin up those all-important pageviews.

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29
Jan
2014

When LGBTs run against incumbent LGBTs

Dana Beyer, Richard Madaleno, Annapolis, Maryland, Montgomery County, gay news, Washington Blade, incumbent

Dana Beyer and Richard Madaleno. (Washington Blade photo of Beyer by Michael Key; Blade photo of Madaleno by Jeff Surprenant)

The LGBT community is debating the question of whether a member of the community should challenge an incumbent who is also a member of the community and has been very supportive and successful in fighting for our issues. That is the crux of some hard feelings generated by Dr. Dana Beyer, a transgender activist, who has thrown her hat into the ring challenging incumbent Maryland State Sen. Richard Madaleno. Beyer’s move was quickly criticized by two of her former colleagues at Equality Maryland.

Beyer is a graduate of Cornell University and the University Of Pennsylvania School Of Medicine. She is an ophthalmic surgeon and physician and grew a small business. She was a senior policy and legislative adviser to Montgomery County Council member Duchy Trachtenberg and a program consultant with the Children’s National Medical Center Department of Psychiatry. She is also the mother of two and a well-known community activist.

The work of both these candidates and so many others who fought for the civil and human rights of all people means that a member of the LGBT community running against someone else from the community will become much more the norm. In this case, most would agree that the interests of the LGBT community will continue to be well served by either candidate.

I am not endorsing Beyer or Madaleno. I consider myself a friend of both, respect both, am proud of what both have accomplished for our community, and don’t live in their district. But I took the opportunity to sit down with Beyer to ask her what would lead her to challenge Madaleno. Asked whether there is anything he hasn’t done for our community that would cause her to run, she agreed there isn’t much. I asked if there wasn’t another race she could have entered since she has for many years been interested in elective office and she explained that she has more of an interest in the issues being debated in Annapolis, such as a progressive tax-code, economic justice, transportation and education. She also said that Madaleno hasn’t been supportive enough of home rule, and his positions on matters of economic justice are a major problem for the district and the county. Beyer brought up a series of issues that among others will be the focus of her campaign and that she hopes voters will make their choice on. (These are her thoughts and in no way am I agreeing or disagreeing with them.)

A big issue for Beyer is whether local counties have the right to make decisions on caps for per student funding of education. She says she would have voted against the 2012 budget reconciliation act because it included an MOE (Maintenance of Effort) clause giving the state the right to force a locality to spend money they believe they don’t have. Beyer believes this doesn’t allow them the freedom to determine their own budget priorities. She also opposed the transfer of the teacher pension responsibility from the state to the county, which Madaleno supported. She is for building the Purple Line and fighting for all mass transit improvements and says that Madaleno supports the lawsuit filed by those trying to stop the Purple Line. She supported the Montgomery County Council’s vote to not grant tax abatement to Lockheed Martin for its training academy and says Madaleno then went against home rule when he supported the state’s effort to grant the tax abatement.

Based on these issues and her background it would seem that an activist of Beyer’s stature has a right to run and bring her concerns to the electorate letting them decide who should represent them. Again, I take no position on whether she should run this particular race or not but it is clear that if the electorate is happy with Madaleno, then she will lose and that is what every candidate running against an incumbent must be prepared for.

Running against an incumbent is always more difficult than running for an open seat but in politics, especially in areas with no term limits, no incumbent should take the voters for granted or feel entitled to their seat.

05
Feb
2014

Is the NFL ready for an openly gay player?

Michael Sam, football, Missouri, gay news, Washington Blade

Missouri defense lineman Michael Sam has come out as gay and could be the NFL’s first out player. (Photo by Marcus Qwertyus; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

University of Missouri defensive lineman Michael Sam is poised to become the country’s first openly gay professional football player after he came out on Feb. 9.

Sam, 24, discussed his sexual orientation in a series of interviews with the New York Times and ESPN. The defensive linebacker is a potential mid-round pick in the National Football League draft that will take place in May.

“I just want to make sure I could tell my story the way I want to tell it,” Sam told the New York Times. “I just want to own my truth.”

The New York Times reported Sam, who grew up in Hitchcock, Texas, came out to his teammates at the University of Missouri last August during a team-building exercise. He was named the Southeastern Conference Defensive Player of the Year after his team ended the season with a 12-2 record that included a win in the Cotton Bowl. Sam is also an All-American.

Outsports.com exclusively reported that Howard Bragman, a gay Hollywood publicist, helped coordinate Sam’s coming out that included the New York Times and ESPN interviews. The LGBT sports website noted the defensive lineman’s agents – Joe Barkett and Cameron Weiss – said they concluded it would “be less of a distraction” for Sam to come out this month as opposed to “after the draft, during summer training camp or during the season.”

Sam attended a dinner at Bragman’s Los Angeles home on Feb. 8 – one day before he spoke with the aforementioned media outlets. Gay former NFL players Dave Kopay and Wade Davis, gay former professional baseball player Billy Bean, former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo, former Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe and Outsports.com co-founders Jim Buzinski and Cyd Zeigler, Jr., also attended.

Outsports.com said Buzinski “grilled him” during a practice interview earlier in the day.

Bragman, Barkett and Weiss critiqued his answers.

“When the topic was football he knew what to say, sharing playing experiences and his love of defense,” reported Outsports.com, noting Sam also shared details of his troubled childhood that included abuse he said he suffered at the hands of his brothers and losing three siblings. “When questions turned to gay issues in that mock interview, Sam worked through the answers.”

The NFL applauded Sam in a statement it released shortly after the New York Times and ESPN published their interviews.

“We admire Michael Sam’s honesty and courage,” said the league. “We look forward to welcoming and supporting Michael Sam in 2014.”

Missouri coach Gary Pinkel and other university officials also praised Sam – students honored the defensive lineman by writing his name in the snow in the school’s football stadium on Feb. 9. Denver Broncos Vice President John Elway and Hall of Famer Deion Sanders are among the former and current NFL players who also applauded Sam.

“Good for him,” said Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith on Twitter.

President Obama and U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) are among those who also applauded Sam.

“Michael Sam has made a historic and courageous decision to live his authentic truth for the world to see,” said National Black Justice Coalition CEO Sharon Lettman-Hicks in a press release that announced an online campaign with Athlete Ally designed to rally additional support for the defensive lineman. “Sam continues the tradition of breaking down barriers for not only LGBT athletes who dream of playing professional sports, but all LGBT people, young and old, who seek to live openly, honestly and safely in their neighborhoods and communities.”

Team D.C. President Les Johnson echoed Lettman-Hicks.

“He’s done a very brave thing,” Johnson told the Washington Blade on Tuesday.

Sam came out nearly a year after former Washington Wizards center Jason Collins became the first male athlete who actively played in a major American professional sports league to come out as gay. Robbie Rogers, a professional soccer player who plays for the Los Angeles Galaxy, disclosed his sexual orientation last February before returning to the sport after a brief retirement.

“Congratulations on leading the way,” wrote Collins on his Twitter account after Sam came out. “That’s real sportsmanship.”

Football ‘not ready’ for openly gay player

Reaction to Sam’s coming out has not been universally positive.

Kent University on Monday indefinitely suspended wrestler Sam Wheeler after he repeatedly used anti-gay slurs in a series of tweets that criticized Sam.

An anonymous NFL player personnel assistant told Sports Illustrated he feels “football is not ready for [an openly gay player] just yet” and an out teammate would “chemically imbalance an NFL locker room and meeting room.” An NFL assistant coach who also did not give his name told the magazine Sam’s announcement was “not a smart move.”

The NFL officials with whom Sports Illustrated spoke said the defensive lineman’s decision to come out would have an adverse impact on his ranking ahead of May’s draft. Sam’s CBS draft ranking on Feb. 10 was 70 spots lower than it was before the New York Times and ESPN published their interviews.

Sam’s father, Michael Sam, Sr., also reacted negatively to his son’s decision.

The older Sam told the New York Times his son told him in a text message while he was celebrating his birthday at a Denny’s outside of Dallas.

“I couldn’t eat no more, so I went to Applebee’s to have drinks,” said Sam’s father. “I don’t want my grandkids raised in that kind of environment.”

“I’m old school,” he added, noting he took one of his older sons to Mexico to lose his virginity. “I’m a man-and-a-woman type of guy.”

Concerns are ‘poppycock’

Zeigler told the Blade on Tuesday that he expected some to react negatively to Sam’s announcement. He nevertheless described them as “idiots” and categorized their concerns as “poppycock.”

“He was openly gay on the University of Missouri football team that went 12-2 and won the Cotton Bowl,” said Zeigler. “The only way [the NFL] is different from college is the men are older, more experienced. They know more people who are gay.”

The Ravens, the New York Giants, the New England Patriots, the Minnesota Vikings and the Cleveland Browns are among the NFL teams that have said they would draft Sam.

“If it’s a distraction to the team that’s not on Michael Sam or because he is gay,” Zeigler told the Blade. “It’s because of bad leadership on the team.”

The Human Rights Campaign on Monday tweeted a picture of Sam and a link to its blog. Stampp Corbin, the former co-chair of the National LGBT Leadership Council for Obama’s 2008 presidential election campaign who publishes a gay newspaper in San Diego, launched a petition on Change.org that urges the NFL to draft the defensive lineman.

“Michael is a football player, not an activist,” Bragman told Outsports.com. “If you start showing up at too many dinners and too many parades, you start to send the message to a potential team about his priorities. The community wins when he steps onto an NFL field and plays in a game, not as the grand marshal of a pride parade.”

Zeigler told the Blade that Bragman told HRC, GLAAD and other groups about Sam’s pending announcement. He said Bragman also told the aforementioned organizations the defensive linebacker “needs to focus on football.”

“Until next February I hope I don’t hear a single question from an LGBT advocacy organization to appear,” said Zeigler. “His advocacy is to be on the football field and break ground in that way.”

Chris Johnson contributed to this report.

12
Feb
2014

Boom-time for L’Enfant

Jim Ball, Christopher Lynch, Cafe L'Enfant, gay news, Washington Blade

Jim Ball and Christopher Lynch hoped to contribute to ‘café society.’ (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Like the newly confident city for which the venue namesake designed the geographic layout, L’Enfant Café & Bar is in boom-time mode. Steps from French architect and civil engineer Pierre L’Enfant’s original Florida Avenue city boundary sits the long-popular dining, drinking and entertainment landmark at 2000 18th St., N.W.

Eleven years ago, co-owners Jim Ball and Christopher Lynch discovered this “perfect place” for the next adventure in their lives. The lively restaurant-bar the then couple opened in April 2003 became a unique component of a maturing nexus of evolving commerce straddling Dupont Circle and Adams Morgan at the intersection of 18th and U streets.

Last weekend was an anniversary for the duo. After exchanging Valentine’s Day gifts at the Manhattan apartment they shared a year prior to launching their hospitality enterprise in D.C., traditional Tiffany treasures were followed by Ball presenting Lynch with a flip chart. Ball asked his cohort to list five “hopes and dreams” while he did the same.

Both lists contained a solitary shared item – opening a coffeehouse and bar. “We wanted to do something different and be our own boss,” Lynch says. They soon would.

“We hoped to contribute to ‘café society’,” Ball recounts. “Fusing what we liked about the East Village spots we frequented,” Lynch notes, as Ball adds, “combined with the tradition of the French.” “At the time there were few places with outdoor space,” Ball recalls. They now offer the area’s largest sidewalk patio.

Their goal was a destination to enjoy a cappuccino or glass of wine along with a meal. “Where a table for two suddenly grows larger” on the spacious wrap-around patio with the addition of friendly faces both known and new, Ball says.

The menu features French-inspired classics and notes “we are the true backbone of this economy, a small business that dreams big.” Steak frites, bistro burgers, savory dinner crepes, and mussels are popular plates. Aperitifs, specialty cocktails, a selection of draft or bottled beers and wines are offered. Open until midnight Sunday-Thursday and 2 a.m. on weekends, seasonal spring-summer-fall lunch service will soon re-initiate.

A national “Top 100 Brunch” among 14,000 Open Table venues, the weekly Saturday reservation-only “La Boum” early-afternoon booze-and-breakfast “house party” with DJ fills 60 interior table and bar seats. With either Lynch or Ball as emcee behind covered windows, guests are exhorted to celebrate debauchery. “We’re pretending our parents are away for the weekend and we have the keys to the liquor cabinet,” Ball writes on the business website. An acclaimed Sunday “Speakeasy” cabaret supper club featuring drag performers from New York, Las Vegas, Berlin and London is on hiatus.

The owners relish the relationships developed with patrons. After investing in imported French café tables and chairs and installing shrubbery boxes, locals were quick to appreciate the streetscape enhancement. The desired “street activation” of city government terminology is more simply expressed by neighbors as “enlivening and beautifying” their street-corner location, Lynch says.

The venue’s sustained success was no certainty. Neither Lynch, previously a sales and marketing professional with Estee Lauder Companies or Ball, an independent event and marketing consultant, had prior industry experience. “We met in a bar and ate in a lot of restaurants,” Ball chuckles. “We ‘winged it’,” he says, “and that was the most exciting part. We learned a lot fast. It’s all part of a story being written every day.”

“We’re proud of these 11 years,” Lynch adds, “most of all that we’ve created a sense of community with our customers.” “We can brainstorm a new idea today and tomorrow make it happen,” explains Ball, “that’s the magic of it.”

Mark Lee is a long-time entrepreneur and community business advocate. Follow on Twitter: @MarkLeeDC. Reach him at OurBusinessMatters@gmail.com.

18
Feb
2014

LGBT Wedding Expo in Frederick

wedding expo, wedding rings, gay news, Washington Blade

(Photo by iStock)

On March 16, Studio C Photography of Frederick presents “Over the Rainbow,” Frederick’s first LGBT Wedding and Fashion Expo. The show will feature more than 30 gay and gay-friendly wedding vendors in all categories. There will be a fashion show with same-sex couples in wedding attire to include M. Stein Tuxedo, private designer dresses, gowns, and suits, and “Under A Hundred” budget-conscious ensembles.

The Expo will be held in the Atrium at the FSK Holiday Inn, 5400 Holiday Dr. in Frederick from 1-4 p.m. There is ample free parking, and the Expo is conveniently right off I-270, I-70, and Rt. 15.

“To date, LGBT wedding shows have been made up of vendors who are there to sell their services, which of course is the point; but not all of them are truly gay friendly,” Susan Centineo, owner of Studio C Photography, told the Blade.  “This show promises vendors who have been screened and who are truly committed to providing red-carpet service for same-sex weddings, and we have added a same-sex fashion show to boot.”

Admission is free, and there will be drawings, raffles, and discounts for same-day bookings with vendors. You may RSVP in advance to qualify for a cash drawing. Email Susan at studiocphotos@yahoo.com or call/text 240-446-6085. A few vendor openings are still available.

24
Feb
2014

Louganis: Russian Open Games marred by disruptions

Gay News, Washington Blade, Greg Louganis

Retired Olympian Greg Louganis last December took part in a Russia briefing on Capitol Hill. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Retired Olympic diver Greg Louganis is among those who participated in the Russian Open Games that ended in Moscow on Sunday.

Louganis, who competed in a table tennis tournament during the five-day event that drew more than 300 LGBT athletes from Russia and other countries that include the U.S. and Sweden, arrived in the Russian capital early last week after he received a last-minute visa.

He left Moscow on Feb. 28.

The gay retired Olympian who won two gold medals during the 1998 Summer Olympics in Seoul and in the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles participated in a Feb. 27 press conference at a Moscow gay nightclub that opened the Russian Open Games. A bomb threat forced him and organizers to speak with reporters outside in the building’s parking lot.

The Washington Post reported the U.S. Embassy hosted a basketball game between participants and diplomats on Sunday after a smoke bomb disrupted a tournament two days earlier.

Louganis, who learned he was living with HIV six months before competing in Seoul, told the Blade police escorted him and more than 30 other Russian Open Games participants out of an ice rink on Feb. 27 after someone reported a group of “strange people” had arrived. He said they had simply gone to the rink for what he described as a “group workshop” about “teaching us some skating skills.”

“They made it clear we were not welcome,” said Louganis. “Just the looks of disdain as we were escorted off the premises was just really concerning.”

Louganis told the Blade he was sending e-mails from a coffee shop across the street from the building where the Russian LGBT Network was holding a panel after the ice rink incident when Konstantin Yablotskiy of the Russian LGBT Sport Federation, which organized the Russian Open Games, said the event had been interrupted. He said Yablotskiy told him somebody suddenly turned off the lights and told them the venue would have to close if they didn’t leave.

Louganis said Yablotskiy and Elvina Yuvakaeva of the Russian LGBT Sport Federation told only one person about venues they had secured for various competitions – and this person escorted participants to them after they met at a Metro station. Louganis told the Blade that Yablotskiy told him to take precautions that included not saying anything specific during telephone conversations because he was sure “others were listening.”

“It was a very interesting environment,” said Louganis, noting he had last been to Moscow more than a decade before the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union. “It kind of reminded me of that; that everything was watched, was observed, scrutinized.”

The Russian Open Games took place a few days after the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi ended.

The Kremlin’s LGBT rights record that includes a 2013 law banning gay propaganda to minors overshadowed the Sochi games. Organizers of the Russian Open Games did not allow anyone under 18 to participate – they also included a disclaimer on its website that read “the information on this site is intended only for the use of those aged 18 and over.”

St. Petersburg Legislative Assemblyman Vitaly Milonov, who spearheaded his city’s gay propaganda ban that inspired the law Russian President Vladimir Putin signed last June, denounced the Russian Open Games. The lawmaker also urged Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin to cancel the event.

Yuvakaeva last week said four venues that had initially agreed to host the games abruptly cancelled their agreements. The hotel where the Russian LGBT Network had planned to hold its forum also cancelled the scheduled event.

Louganis told the Blade he had not heard about the 10 LGBT rights advocates who were arrested near Moscow’s Red Square on Feb. 7 as they tried to sing the Russian national anthem while holding rainbow flags before the Sochi opening ceremony. He said a gay couple he met in the Russian capital told him about the arrests – and the officers who reportedly beat and threatened to sexually assault the activists while inside a local police station.

St. Petersburg police on Feb. 7 arrested Anastasia Smirnova and three other LGBT rights advocates as they tried to march with a banner in support of the campaign to add sexual orientation to the Olympic charter’s non-discrimination clause.

“I really wanted to be a participant [in the Russian Open Games] just to get an objective view rather than the propagandized vision of what it was in Sochi,” Louganis told the Blade, discussing Russia’s LGBT rights record. “Sochi I heard was wonderful and everybody was bragging and the media was over-reacting and all of this. You don’t know until you’re there.”

Louganis was also in Moscow as Russian troops prepared to take control of Ukraine’s Crimea region amid outrage from the U.S. and Europe.

The Kremlin on Monday reportedly issued an ultimatum that demanded the surrender of the crews of two Ukrainian warships on the predominantly Russian-speaking peninsula where Russia’s Black Sea Fleet is based. Secretary of State John Kerry is scheduled to arrive in the Ukrainian capital on Tuesday as tension between Washington and Moscow continues to escalate after the country’s Kremlin-backed president went into hiding following the deaths of dozens of anti-government protesters in Kiev.

“We were aware of what was going on with the borders being enforced,” said Louganis. “There was talk of invasion. There was this thing going on, but we were just focused on the event… with every turn we had to adjust and adjust and adjust. We were constantly trying to adjust to the immediate present and trying to make the Open Games as successful as we possibly could.”

Louganis added he was repeatedly impressed with the games’ organizers’ resilience against efforts to disrupt events.

“It was very impressive,” he told the Blade. “It was also very eye-opening for me from my personal experience.”

03
Mar
2014