Don't break out the Russian vodka just yet! Today, Russian President Vladimir Putin assured that gay people will be welcome at the Winter Olympics, but his statement didn't fully address the issue. Following months of protests and worldwide criticism over the country's antigay propaganda law, Putin said, "We are doing everything, both the organizers and our athletes and fans, so that participants and guests feel comfortable in Sochi, regardless of nationality, race, or sexual orientation." His comments come after he signed a controversial bill into law this past June. Called an "antigay propaganda law," it bans public discussion or exposure of "homosexual propaganda" to children. The bill's author, Alexei Zhuravlev, says it aims to "protect" children from trauma brought on by parents who "do not conceal their same-sex sexual relationships."
The law has prompted several conversations over how gay athletes might be treated at the Olympics, and international backlash has included public demonstrations, petitions to boycott the games, and calls for bars to boycott Russian vodka. In July, the International Olympic Committee released a statement, saying, "The games themselves should be open to all, free of discrimination, and that applies to spectators, officials, media, and of course athletes. We would oppose in the strongest terms any move that would jeopardize this principle. To that end, the IOC has received assurances from the highest level of government in Russia that the legislation will not affect those attending or taking part in the games."