In an interview Thursday on MSNBC’s “The Last Word,” hosted by Lawrence O’Donnell, LGBT political activist Stuart Milk, founder of the Harvey Milk Foundation, called on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to permit a haven for LGBT athletes within Sochi’s Winter Olympic village.
Earlier this year, a Russian judge banned the establishment of a “Pride House” in Sochi because it would “undermine the security of Russian society” and the “sovereignty of the Russian Federation due to the decrease in Russia’s population.”
Responding to claims that the IOC hasn’t done enough to protect LGBT athletes, IOC member Anita Defrantz, herself a former US olympian, said that “It’s not a matter of concern for the IOC. There can be no discrimination during the Games. We are absolutely opposed to that.”
Milk: anti-LGBT laws like the one in force in Russia “incite hatred and incite violence. We’ve seen that throughout Russia and throughout Eastern Europe, where there are other nations, like Lithuania, that have had the same type of anti-LGBT propaganda law since 2008.”
When asked by O’Donnell about her views on the Russian ban of the Pride House and the safety of gay athletes in the face of anti-LGBT legislation, Defrantz said that Russia has “assured the [IOC] that all of Sochi, all of where the Games are, will not have this [law] into effect.”
O’Donnell countered: “And you believe them?”, to which Defrantz replied: “I have to.”
O’Donnell shot back: “No, you don’t have to. Why would you believe them? They are banning the Pride House, Anita. I think you should look into it.”
Pride Houses have been part of the Olympic village since the Winter games in Vancouver in 2010, providing services and hospitality to LGBT athletes, their families and spectators, as well as hosting special events, exhibits and talks.
Stuart Milk recently visited Lithuania to participate in the Baltic Pride march in Vilnius and has been increasingly outspoken about the plight of LGBT people throughout Central and Eastern Europe.
Watch the full interview here.
(Lead photo: Getty Images)