Speed Read: Wednesday 11 December 2013

OLYMPIC PROTEST ZONE: International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach announced yesterday that Russian authorities have agreed to create a “protest zone” in Sochi during the Olympics. The news of a “protest zone” came just one day after the IOC announced that it would, during Tuesday’s IOC executive board meeting in Lausanne, approve a letter to athletes reminding them that Rule 50 of the IOC Charter states that “No kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda is permitted in any Olympic sites, venues or other areas.” Andrew Miller, a spokesperson for Queer Nation-NY, which has been leading U.S. protests against the Russian anti-gay laws adopted last summer, was not impressed. “Instead of negotiating a protest zone,” said Miller, Bach “should be demanding the repeal of Russia’s anti-LGBT laws and insisting that the Russian government respect the human rights of all its citizens.” For more, read here.

DEFENSE BILL AGREEMENTS: Leaders of the U.S. Senate and House Armed Services committees announced Monday that they have reached an agreement on the defense authorization bill for the coming year, including some provisions LGBT activists have opposed. In a press release Monday, the House-Senate leadership said the new bill “requires the accommodation of individual expressions of moral and religious beliefs by service members unless such expressions of belief could have an adverse impact on military readiness, unit cohesion, and good order and discipline.” Human Rights Campaign Government Affairs Director David Stacy said HRC opposed the amendment, introduced by Rep. John Fleming (R-La.) when it passed the House. Fleming’s amendment required the accommodation of “beliefs, actions, and speech” that would “actually harm” military order and discipline. The House is expected to vote on the NDAA this week but early indications are there could still be trouble ahead for the bill in the Senate. For more, read here.

 OBAMA REMARKS AT MANDELA: One of the most publicized remarks of President Obama’s eulogy for South African leader Nelson Mandela Tuesday was this: “The struggles that follow the victory of formal equality or universal franchise may not be as filled with drama and moral clarity as those that came before, but they are no less important. For around the world today, we still see children suffering from hunger and disease. We still see run-down schools.  We still see young people without prospects for the future. Around the world today, men and women are still imprisoned for their political beliefs, and are still persecuted for what they look like, and how they worship, and who they love.” Russian President Vladimir Putin did not attend Tuesday’s memorial service.

 THE U.S. MISSION: Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power led a Roundtable Strategy Session on International LGBT Rights Tuesday at the U.S. Mission in New York. In her remarks, Power called the anti-gay legislation in Russia “as outrageous as it is dangerous.” “To criticize the criminalization of LGBT status is not cultural imperialism.  And to deny gays and lesbians the right to live freely – and to threaten them with discrimination or even death – is not a form of moral or religious puritanism….it is imperative that we reaffirm our commitment to advancing and protecting the rights of LGBT persons, whether in Kansas or in Kampala.”

 GANDALF WARNED: Openly gay actor Ian McKellen, who is best known these days as the wizard Gandalf in The Hobbit, told Associated Press that the British Foreign Office warned him that they would not be able to protect him from Russia’s anti-gay laws if the actor travels to Russia.

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