BY OSKAR GARCIA
SOCHI, Russia -- U.S. Olympic Committee sponsor AT&T has condemned a Russian law restricting gay-rights activity as Sochi prepares to host the Winter Olympics.
The telecommunications giant said in a blog post that the law is harmful to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and harmful to a diverse society.
"We support LGBT equality globally and we condemn violence, discrimination and harassment targeted against LGBT individuals everywhere," AT&T said in the post.
AT&T said it was responding to a request from the Human Rights Campaign, which urged International Olympic Committee sponsors to stand up for LGBT equality. AT&T isn't an IOC sponsor, but says it supports the campaign's principles.
AT&T is the first major U.S. corporation to publicly condemn Russia's law, Human Rights Campaign officials said.
Here's the news release from HRC:
AT&T Condemns Anti-LGBT Law in Russia, Sets Example for Other Olympic Sponsors
AT&T first major U.S. corporation to denounce anti-LGBT law
WASHINGTON – Today, AT&T became the first major U.S. corporation to make a public statement condemning the anti-LGBT Russian law outlawing “homosexual propaganda.” Since the passage of the law last June, the Russian LGBT community has been targeted with violence, harassment, bomb threats, and limitations on its freedom of speech and assembly. HRC called on corporate sponsors of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to condemn the dangerous law. In spite of the fact that it is not an IOC corporate sponsor, AT&T heeded HRC’s call to stand with LGBT Russians and equality supporters all over the world. HRC President Chad Griffin issued the following statement:
“Today, AT&T courageously recommitted itself to fairness, equality and basic human rights. AT&T should be recognized for showing true leadership in opposing this hateful Russian law, and other sponsors that have failed to lead should take corrective action immediately. A company that claims to support LGBT equality should do so wherever it operates, not just in the United States, and we call on all Olympic Sponsors to follow AT&T’s lead and publicly denounce Russia’s anti-LGBT law.”
For well over a decade, AT&T has been a leader in corporate inclusion. They were the first telecommunications company to earn a perfect 100 percent on the Corporate Equality Index.
AT&T’s blog post condemning the Russian law says in part, “AT&T has a long and proud history of support for the LGBT community in the United States and everywhere around the world where we do business. We support LGBT equality globally and we condemn violence, discrimination and harassment targeted against LGBT individuals everywhere. Russia’s law is harmful to LGBT individuals and families, and it’s harmful to a diverse society.
Last week HRC and 40 of the world’s leading human rights and LGBT groups sent a joint open letter calling on corporate sponsors of the Sochi Winter Olympics to urge Russia to halt the rising tide of discrimination, harassment and threats against LGBT people. In August, HRC President Chad Griffin sent a letter to IOC corporate sponsors expressing concern over the anti-LGBT Russian law and calling on the companies to adopt a clear and unequivocal public position in opposition to anti-LGBT laws.
Last year, a law banning "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations" was passed by Russia’s Federal Assembly and signed into law by President Vladimir Putin. Under the guise of protecting children from "homosexual propaganda," the law imposes fines or jail time to citizens who disseminate information that may cause a "distorted understanding" that LGBT and heterosexual relationships are "socially equivalent." The fines are significantly higher if such information is distributed through the media or Internet. Foreigners, such as those visiting Russia for the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games, will not only be fined but also face arrest and up to 15 days in jail, followed by eventual deportation, according to the new law.
IOC and Sochi corporate sponsors include: The Dow Chemical Company, General Electric, Panasonic of North America, Atos, McDonald’s Corporation, Procter & Gamble, Omega, Samsung Electronics, Coca-Cola, and Visa Inc. Company.
To learn more about HRC’s work to expose and repeal Russia’s anti-LGBT law visit www.hrc.org/russia.