Gay Olympic figure skater Johnny Weir has said that he does not plan to campaign for LGBT rights or even openly kiss his Russian-born husband at the games in Sochi, but that he is prepared to be arrested by Russian authorities. The flamboyant athlete and reality TV star told CBS News that he is uncertain whether he will even be allowed into the country to compete.
“In Russia, just the sheer fact that you could be gay, you can get arrested, fined, and it’s a terrible thing to even think of,” Weir said. “Myself, even, just walking down the street, going to get Starbucks in the morning, and somebody could arrest me just because I look too gay.”
Russia has found itself increasingly out of step with the rest of the world because of its regressive attitude toward LGBT people. Russian officials like St. Petersburg’s Vitaly Milanov have passed laws in the country outlawing “homosexual propaganda,” a blanket term that means any depiction of same sex relationships that does not paint them as abhorrent and anomalous. Russian youth have engaged in a campaign of torture and murder of LGBT teens.
It is currently unclear whether Russian officials intend to prosecute LGBT athletes and Olympic personnel or whether visitors will be immune to the discriminatory laws faced by Russian citizens. Milanov insists that the laws will be enforced universally, whereas the AP reported Friday that NBC has assured issued its LGBT employees that the network will do everything in its power to keep them safe.
For his part, Weir professed to CBS a lifelong fascination with Russia, which he called “the most magnificent place in the world.” He said he looks forward to the games, but that he will not be displaying any forms of protest, waving any rainbow flags or even openly kissing his husband Victor Voronov for luck.
“I can kiss him when I get to my hotel,” said Weir.
A boycott would only hurt the careers of athletes who have trained hard for the games, he insisted.
“Would the Olympics be in Saudi Arabia, in Palestine, in Pyongyang, North Korea, on Mars, I would go,” he said. “Because that’s what I’m trained to do and that’s what I’ve devoted my life to.”
He said that he hopes participation in the games by LGBT athletes will open a discussion and that he has made peace with being arrested if it comes to that.
“If it takes me getting arrested for people to pay attention, and for people to lobby against this law, then I’m willing to take it,” he said. “Like anyone, I’m scared to be arrested. But I’m also not afraid of being arrested.”
Watch the video, embedded below via CBS News: