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Midyear 2014: ABA commission to host program on the Olympic Games, Russia’s anti-gay laws

Midyear 2014: ABA commission to host program on the Olympic Games and Russia’s anti-gay laws

By John Glynn

At the American Bar Association Midyear Meeting in Chicago, one session will draw ABA members’ attention to the other side of the world, as it focuses on the Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia. While many people will be admiring the grace and majesty of the world’s greatest athletes as the Games get underway, members of the ABA Commission on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, or SOGI, will be watching to see how these athletes are treated when they speak out against Russia’s anti-LGBT laws.

SOGI will host the free continuing legal education program “Olympian Troubles: Responses to Russia’s Anti-Gay Legislation During the Sochi Winter Olympics,” featuring 1984 Olympic swimming champion and lawyer Nancy Hogshead-Makar, from 2 to 3:30 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 7, at the Hyatt Regency Chicago.

“The burden falls on us as human rights lawyers and people interested in the rule of law to keep the pressure on Russia,” said Mark Wojcik, a SOGI commissioner and professor at the John Marshall Law School, who will be moderating the discussion. “The focus is not just on what can happen at the Games, but what can happen after the Games to improve the situation for LGBT people in Russia.”

Russia recently enacted laws that ban the distribution of “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations” to minors, which means that any materials mentioning gay rights are banned. The laws, which also made it illegal to speak out publicly about LGBT issues or participate in gay pride demonstrations, have led to hate crimes and arrests. The laws were deemed to violate the European Convention for Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms by the Council of Europe.

Around the world, many people have spoken out against Russia’s laws and called for the relocation of the upcoming Games. Several Olympic athletes launched the Principle 6 campaign, based on Principle 6 of the Olympic Charter, which states that “any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement.”

Participants in Friday’s program include Elvia Arriola, a professor at the Northern Illinois University College of Law; David Austin, a professor with the California Western School of Law; and Steven Thompson, a partner with Ungaretti & Harris.

Hogshead-Makar, senior director of advocacy at the Women’s Sports Foundation and a professor at the Florida Coastal School of Law, works with LGBT athletes and noted that U.S. athletes are only partially protected against anti-gay bias through Title IX and Title VII. She emphasized that anti-gay bias in sports is especially detrimental to women.

“As long as there is an LGBT bias, that bias will be used to downplay, ridicule and lessen the importance of women in sports,” Hogshead-Makar said.

“Olympian Troubles: Responses to Russia’s Anti-Gay Legislation During the Sochi Winter Olympics” is co-sponsored by the Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources, Section of Individual Rights and Responsibilities, Section of International Law, Section of Real Property, Trust and Estate Law, Section of State and Local Government Law, Tort, Trial and Insurance Practice Section, Government and Public Sector Lawyers Division, Forum on Communications Law, Forum on the Entertainment and Sports Industries, Center for Human Rights and Commission on Women in the Profession.

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